Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Washington, D.C. - January 30, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Duncan Hunter today introduced legislation to reform the federal Clean Water Act, limiting the amount of fees and penalties trial lawyers can seek in cases brought about through the citizen suit provision. While current law allows for citizen suits to compel compliance with the law, trial lawyers have exploited the provision for their own gain, trying to charge excessive legal fees for minor violations and even in instances where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already taken corrective action to resolve water issues.

“Citizen lawsuits were included in the Clean Water Act to empower individuals with the opportunity to help bring about accountability,” said Congressman Hunter. “Unfortunately, trial lawyers have turned this provision into a process for their own benefit and use the “sue and settle” practice to shakedown local water districts and us as their ratepayers. When simple problems arise and easy resolution solutions are available, or in cases where the EPA has already corrected a problem, trial lawyers still jump on with unnecessary legal action forcing water agencies to pass off millions of dollars in needless legal fees to their customers. We here in California are already dealing with increased water rates because of extreme environmental regulation and poor management by the State California. Forcing water customers to pay for unnecessary legal fees is simply too much.”

Congressman Hunter’s bill protects ratepayers by making a couple of simple technical changes to the Clean Water Act by limiting the amount of litigation charges that can be incurred, prohibiting legal action where the EPA has already taken action to rectify a problem and making regulations consistent with other areas of federal law. This measure is the fifth bill Congressman Hunter has introduced in the new 116th Congress and is part of his “First 100-Day Initiative,” a proactive legislative plan to bring about common sense reforms.

Rep. Hill Fighting for Release of American Held in Syria

Washington, D.C. - January 30, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman French Hill (AR-02) submitted a letter to the president requesting his support in bringing Majd Kamalmaz safely home from Syria. Mr. Kamalmaz is an American being unjustly held by the government of Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

After submitting the letter, Rep. Hill delivered the following remarks on the House floor:

"I rise today to bring attention to Majd Kamalmaz, an American being held by Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. In February 2017, Majd was detained by Syrian police while visiting the country for the funeral of his father-in-law. When I spoke to Majd’s children last week they told me they had tried to convince him not to go to Syria, but their father has always put others before himself.

"Majd’s personal motto is 'be in peace,' and that motto has been on display throughout his life with his work to help disaster victims in places like Kosovo, Indonesia, Lebanon, and the Southern U.S. after Hurricane Katrina. Majd’s children have not seen or heard from their father for nearly two years. I echo their call and plea with President Trump to do what he can to ensure their father is safely returned home."


The full text of the letter submitted to the president can be found HERE.


Washington, D.C. - January 30, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) in introducing the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, legislation which would make permanent the VA’s Child Care Pilot Program and expand it so that veterans across the nation who are primary caretakers have a convenient, cost-free option for child care when they have VA medical appointments.

“Treating our veterans right means removing barriers to quality care,” said Congressman Higgins. “This bill gives parents and grandparents, who have severed this nation, access to child care during their health and mental health appointments. We’ve seen the success of this model in Western New York since 2011 and I am proud to work with Congresswoman Brownley to extend this service on a permanent basis to all of our veterans.”

“The lack of affordable and convenient child care should never be a barrier for veterans trying to access the VA healthcare they’ve earned and deserve,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “This is especially important for the growing population of women veterans, who are more often taking care of young children. I look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Higgins and all of our colleagues to see this important program finally become permanent and nationwide.”

In 2011, Congress created a pilot program to provide free child care for qualified veterans using VA healthcare services at a limited number of participating sites around the country. Since then, over 10,000 children have used the program, which has been very popular with the veteran community. Women veterans used the service at a rate four times their population among the veteran community at large, indicating the program is working for the growing population of women veterans and their families. According to a VA Satisfaction Survey of veterans who have used the pilot program, a majority responded that, without the available child care, they would have brought their children to their appointment or cancelled their appointment altogether.

Congress has reauthorized this popular and successful program four times, and unless Congress acts again, it will expire on October 1, 2019. The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act would make the pilot program permanent and expand it to include every VA facility in the nation.

Western New York is home to one of the pilot sites, opening the Kids Korner childcare center at the Buffalo VA Hospital in 2011.

This legislation is supported by Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Easterseals, and the Fleet Reserve Association.

“Shutdown To End All Shutdowns (SEAS) Act”

Washington, D.C. - January 30, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- In a press conference today, Reps. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Dean Phillips (MN-03) and Colin Allred (TX-32) led a group of more than 20 freshman lawmakers in introducing the Shutdown to End All Shutdowns (SEAS) Act, a bill aimed at protecting federal employees from being used as pawns in future political negotiations by transferring the financial hardship of shutdowns to the Executive Branch and Members of Congress.

In addition to shifting the hardship caused by a federal government shutdown to those responsible for it, the SEAS Act would allow government to continue operating under an automatic continuing resolution for as long as Congress and the President fail to agree on an appropriations measure.

“We represent a growing chorus of Americans demanding an end to shutdowns,” said Phillips. “They are the worst negotiation tactic practiced by our government. They’re irresponsible and ineffective, and the human toll is inexcusable. The only people who should suffer financial hardship when elected leaders can’t govern are the elected leaders themselves.”

“If Congress and the President can’t agree on spending, the burden shouldn’t fall on federal workers and their families -- it should fall on leaders in Washington. As a former federal worker for 14 years, I’m proud to be introducing a bill that ensures federal workers aren’t held hostage by stalled negotiations, and puts real skin in the game for Members of Congress and the President if they can’t do their jobs,” said Slotkin.

“Intentionally shutting the government down to negotiate policy differences is irresponsible and failed policy,” said Houlahan. “As we recently saw, millions of American families are adversely affected when our government fails to do its most basic responsibilities. We cannot let this happen again and this bill will appropriately put the pain in situations like these on the Executive and Legislative branches rather than on the people that we serve.”

“Back home in Texas I heard from all kinds of people and the message was the same — enough is enough,” said Allred. “Shutdown politics are nothing more than petty brinkmanship and serve only to take us backward. The Freshman class was sworn in during a shutdown and we want to make sure this never happens again. We were sent here to clean up and reform Washington and this legislation does just that.”

Specifically, the SEAS Act would prohibit the use of federal funds for Member travel and require daily quorum calls for the duration of a federal government shutdown. The legislation would also suspend Member pay and not hold it in escrow, as it is under current law.

The SEAS Act hits the president with equally stiff penalties, prohibiting the use of federal funds for Executive Branch and Cabinet, except by waiver in cases of national security, natural disaster or national emergency. Under the new law, the use of federal funds would also be prohibited for Executive Branch bonuses, receptions, entertainment, exercise facilities and golf courses during a shutdown.

Read more about the SEAS Act here.

Additional freshmen co-sponsors echoed the need to end the practice of using shutdowns as a negotiation tactic:

Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-03): “There are no winners when the government shuts down. Federal workers suffer, the economy slows down, government services grind to a halt and taxpayers are left holding the bag. When I worked in national security, we’d check our politics at the door and lock ourselves in a room until we figured it out. The Shutdown to End All Shutdowns Act would take a similar approach by continuing to fund the government at the previous year’s levels while politicians are forced to stay in DC and work it out - without getting paid. I’m proud to join as a cosponsor of this commonsense legislation.”

Rep. Angie Craig (MN-02): “Today I joined 20 of my fellow freshman to put an end to the practice of using destructive shutdowns as a negotiating tool, making sure that no party can ever put politics over people again. This bill shifts the pressure of a shutdown to where it should be: on the legislative and executive branches, not the millions of Americans who rely on government services and those who receive steady paychecks.”

Rep. Susie Lee (NV-03): “This is my first week in Congress with a fully-open federal government and the effects of the Nation’s longest shutdown in history will be felt for years. As freshmen, we inherited a shutdown that forced federal workers to go on food stamps, take temporary jobs, miss rent payments, and so much more. This was politically motivated and it was wrong. So our Freshmen Class decided to do something about it by introducing The Shutdown to End All Shutdowns (SEAS) Act. This act will force those responsible for creating shutdowns to shoulder the burden.”

Rep. Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26): “The dysfunctionality that we’ve seen in DC needs to stop. We cannot continue to hold people’s paychecks hostage over policy differences. This bill will ensure that all decision makers are forced to come to an agreement so that this never happens again.”

Rep. Ben McAdams (UT-04):
“I ran for Congress to get things done for Utah families. Nothing is more basic than keeping government operations running and providing services. A shutdown should never happen. This bill prevents future shutdowns and would hold Congress and the White House accountable for funding the government in a responsible manner.”

Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA-39): “I’ve seen the pain and hardship the Trump shut down caused the thousands of federal workers in my district and across the country. I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting legislation that will ensure that federal workers are protected from being furloughed, that they have a paycheck, and shifts the financial hardship of shut down to the President and Congress. We should not be using federal workers as a negotiating tactic, and with this bill we will protect our public servants and keep our government functioning as intended.”

Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03): “It has become all too common for Washington politicians to use the threat of a government shutdown to advance political or policy agendas. During this past shutdown, our federal workers, our farmers and our communities were suffering while lawmakers went home for the holidays. This is an unacceptable way to govern. Our legislation says if lawmakers can’t agree on a budget, lawmakers don’t get paid. It’s time to stop punishing everyday Iowans for Washington dysfunction.”

Rep. Abby Finkenauer (IA-01): “Today we are here to a send a message to working families, the Congress and all future Congresses. Shutdowns are unacceptable, they are dangerous, and they are irresponsible. This is a new day in Washington. We are here to put chaos and dysfunction aside. We are here to do our jobs and we are here to get back to work.”

Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03): “I have made it very clear that using the threat of a government shutdown and the suffering of thousands of federal workers as leverage in a policy disagreement is unacceptable. We have an obligation to protect hard working men and women and their families from being used as pawns in future policy negotiations. Any hardship created as a result of dysfunction here in Washington should be felt by the people who are responsible, not the federal employees who work hard every day to serve the American people.”

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11): “The shutdown hurt families in my district, and illustrated the need for new ideas as to how to fix our political institutions. This bill takes an important step in putting responsibility on Members of Congress to come together, resolve policy differences, and pass appropriations bills without using hardworking Americans as leverage.”

Rep. Chris Pappas (NH-01): “It is unacceptable that the livelihood of hardworking Americans becomes collateral damage every time the White House and Congress have a disagreement. The American people sent us here with the clear message that this kind of business as usual must be changed. I will continue working with anyone willing to put an end to destructive shutdown politics and ensure our government is working in the best interest of the people.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ranching Industry Praises Department of Interior After Agency Reissues Hammond Ranches' Grazing Permit

Washington, D.C. - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Public Lands Council (PLC) President Bob Skinner and National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) President Kevin Kester today issued the following statement in response to the reissuance of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing permits to Hammond Ranches:

"In light of a full and unconditional presidential pardon, the reissuance of the Hammond Ranches' grazing permits is the final step in righting the egregious injustices the Hammonds faced. This is the culmination of years of effort on behalf of this industry to restore a family's livelihood. We speak on behalf of the livestock producers nationwide in saying thank you to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his team who worked to correct the hardships this family faced."

Additionally, Ethan Lane, Senior Executive Director of PLC and NCBA Federal Lands, issued the following statement on behalf of Hammond Ranches:

"The Hammonds have asked me to convey their appreciation to Acting Secretary Bernhardt and the Bureau of Land Management for reissuing their grazing permits. They are looking forward to digging into the specifics of the reinstatement and, finally, getting back to the business of ranching."


In 2012, Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of felony arson and sentenced to five years imprisonment under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This conviction was the result of two routine, back-burn fires started on their private property spreading to small parcels of adjacent federal land. On July 10, 2018, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency for both men. However, the initial conviction resulted in the loss of Hammond Ranches' BLM grazing permits. Today, the Department of the Interior notified Hammond Ranches that their grazing permits had been reinstated.

NY Law Is Infanticide

Albany, NY - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The so-called “Reproductive Health Act,” recently signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, authorizes the murder of unborn babies up to the point of birth for any reason and revokes medical care for babies who are born alive after a failed abortion. This new law, which also applies to nonresidents who come to New York for an abortion, denies any legal protection or rights for an unborn child.

When any abortion law uses the word “health” in addition to “life,” and the definition of “health” is not clearly specified, it is likely relying on the broad definition of “health” in the 1973 Doe v. Bolton opinion. The New York law does not define the word “health” but states:

“A health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized under title eight of the education law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, may perform an abortion when, according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” (emphasis added).

Under this law, the mother can obtain an abortion for any reason using the broad application of the word “health.” Under Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe v. Wade, the word “health” includes emotional, psychological, familial, situational, and financial considerations.

While many states have laws which require appropriate medical care and treatment for babies who are born alive after a failed abortion, the state of New York repealed that section of the public health law. Now the same medical personnel who would work to save a preemie, need not do anything for a baby the same age who survived an abortion.

This new law also seeks to deny any recognition or protection for human beings before birth under any circumstances. Until now, New York had been one of 38 states whose homicide statute could apply before birth. The law defined homicide as including “conduct which causes the death unborn child” after 24 weeks “under circumstances constituting” existing categories of homicide. The so-called “Reproductive Health Act” repealed that language so that deliberately causing the death of a child whose mother never even considered abortion is no crime at all.

“A child can be tortured and killed seconds before it is born in New York simply because it is seen as an ‘inconvenience’ to some and a money-maker for others,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “If the child happens to be born alive, it can now be left to suffer and die. New York has dehumanized the child in the womb, including those born alive after a failed abortion. This is infanticide. This is nothing to celebrate. This is a crime against humanity, and New York wants to become the world sanctuary for abortions by allowing even nonresidents to come and kill their babies,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.

Bill to Withhold Pay from Congress, POTUS During Shutdowns

Washington, D.C. - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congressmen Jared Golden (ME-02), joined by Reps. Dan Crenshaw (TX-02) and Max Rose (NY-11), introduced a bipartisan bill today to withhold pay from members of Congress, the President, and the Vice President during a government shutdown. The bipartisan group is introducing their legislation, the Solidarity in Salary Act of 2019, to prevent and limit the duration of future shutdowns and ensure that lawmakers feel the harm they cause federal employees when they fail to fund the government.

“Federal workers don’t get paid during a government shutdown. Neither should politicians,” said Golden. “That’s just common sense. Our bill, the Solidarity in Salary Act withholds paychecks from the members of Congress, the President, and the Vice President during a shutdown. This legislation will help prevent the American people from being political pawns for party leaders and help return sanity to the task of funding the government. I thank Representatives Crenshaw and Rose for joining me to offer this important legislation.”

“Federal employees should never have to carry the burden caused by a dysfunctional government; that’s why I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation,” said Crenshaw. “When a Congressional impasse causes federal employees to go unpaid, Members of Congress should have to withhold their pay. We should have to feel the very real effects of a shutdown, just as our fellow federal employees are forced to do.”

“Only in a town as broken as Washington do you still get paid when you don’t do your job,” said Rose. “That’s wrong, and it’s past time to make it right.”

The Solidarity in Salary Act of 2019 places the daily pay of the president, vice president, and members of Congress in escrow for each day a government shutdown was in effect. Once the government is reopened, the withheld pay is released.

View text of the bill here.

Bill to Curb Government Corruption

Washington, D.C. - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ruben Gallego, Congressman Ted W. Lieu, Congressman David Cicilline, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo announced they are introducing the Restoring the Public Trust Act of 2019. The bill package incorporates a number of pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening ethical standards in the federal government to prevent government corruption and ensure accountability for the American public.

Upon introduction, the Members said:

“Trump and his administration have made a mockery of government ethics, demonstrating the weak spots in our current laws. He has normalized unethical behavior in a way that was once unthinkable, proving that we need stronger ethics laws. The damage that Trump has done to the public’s confidence in its government won’t be easy to fix but this bill ensures that those gaping holes in our anticorruption and ethics laws are addressed. In doing so, we will course correct our government to ensure it is working for the people, which is a key Democratic priority this Congress. The Restoring the Public Trust Act helps us do the critical work of rebuilding the public’s faith in government.”

The Restoring the Public Trust Act is endorsed By: American Oversight; Campaign for Accountability, Common Cause and Public Citizen.

The bill will include the following provisions:

TITLE I: Draining the Swamp

The SWAMP Act: The President must reimburse the Treasury Department for taxpayer dollars spent at properties in which he has a financial stake, like Mar-a-Lago.

The SWAMP FLYERS Act: Prohibits the use of federal funds for the official travel of a senior political appointee on a non-commercial, private, or chartered flight unless they certify – under penalty of perjury – that no alternative flight was available.

The E. Scott Pruitt Accountability for Government Officials Act:
Creates a federal criminal penalty for use of public office for private gain, endorsement of products, or aiding family and friends for corrupt purposes.

CORRUPT Act: The head of each agency must submit to the Office of Government Ethics a report on the amount expended by that agency to any property owned by the President or his family.

RIGGED Act: Makes the federal nepotism laws applicable to the Executive Office of the President.

DRAIN the Swamp Act: The head of each agency must submit to the Comptroller General an assessment of any regulatory conflict of interest pertaining to the President and various senior advisors that might arise from an agency’s rule.

TITLE II: Rooting Out Conflicts of Interest

CLEARANCES Act (COMMONSENSE LEGISLATION ENSURING ACCOUNTABILITY BY REPORTING ACCESS OF NON-CLEARED EMPLOYEES TO SECRETS): The White House must report to Congress when it grants a security clearance in contravention of an unfavorable clearance recommendation, in part to prevent dangerous and heavily indebted individuals from entering the most sensitive positions in government.

Blind Trusts: Requires members of the President’s Cabinet and certain senior White House advisors to place stocks, bonds, commodities futures, other forms of securities in a blind trust during their tenure.

Preventing domestic emoluments: Prohibits any business interest owned in whole or in part by the President or Vice President, his/her spouse, or immediate family member from doing business with the federal government.

Presidential Tax Transparency Act: Requires all candidates for President to release their tax returns for the past three years.

No more shadow White House meetings: Require the White House to maintain a publicly accessible website that includes data on visitor logs.

TITLE III: Strengthening Our Inspectors General

Protecting our inspectors general: Requires notification to Congress of a president’s decision to place an agency inspector general – whose job is to root out waste, fraud, and corruption – on leave or to change their status in any way.

Filling empty inspector general positions:
Requires the President report to Congress if he or she fails to nominate an Inspector General for a given agency, including a target date for making a formal recommendation.

Gallagher Introduces the Serve the People, Not the Swamp Act

Washington, D.C. - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI, 8th) introduced H.R. 765, the “Serve the People, Not the Swamp Act”, a collection of common-sense Congressional reforms he has supported since his first term in office. The bill would prevent Congress from going into recess without first adopting a balanced federal budget; establish a 5-year ban on lobbying for Members of Congress and high-ranking executive branch officials; and terminate taxpayer-funded pensions for Members of Congress. Click here to read the bill.

Gallagher released the following statement after introducing the bill:

“We need our representatives to get back to viewing their time in Congress as a deployment, not as a path to a cushy lobbying job with a special pension. Members of Congress shouldn’t be getting retirement deals funded by taxpayers, and we shouldn’t be leaving town for weeks at a time when we haven’t even completed Congress’s most basic task of passing a budget each year. These ideas haven’t made me popular in D.C., but I didn’t run for Congress to be popular. I ran to fix problems and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: We’re One State Away From the Equal Rights Amendment

Washington, D.C. - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) spoke on the House floor, urging passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee legal gender equality for women and men under the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:

“It's been nearly 100 years since women fought for and won the right to vote. Yet, we still do not have equal rights and protection under the United States Constitution. There are too many examples in our everyday lives where women still do not get equal pay for equal work and where we still face discrimination simply for being a woman.

“In 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and was reintroduced every session until it finally passed in 1972. However, because of an arbitrary deadline in 1982, by that time, only 35 states out of the required 38 had ratified the amendment. In the past two years, we've inched forward with successful votes in Nevada and Illinois, and now we're just one state away from finally passing the Equal Rights Amendment. This is not about politics. It's about equality. It's about humanity. It's long overdue that we pass the Equal Rights Amendment and include equality between men and women in the United States Constitution.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has fought for equal treatment and opportunity for all Americans throughout her time in Congress. She has cosponsored a joint resolution that will remove the arbitrary deadline for state ratification and allow for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She has also cosponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and guarantee that women can challenge pay discrimination and hold employers accountable.

Related News:

Hastings’ Statement on the Introduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act

The Cost of Shutdown

Washington, D.C. - January 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX, 15th) issued the following statement following a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that the Trump Shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion from Q4 of 2018 to Q1 to 2019. The report states that $3 billion was lost permanently.

“Financial uncertainty for federal employees, economic turmoil in the markets, and a silencing of critical government services are unacceptable – a far cry from anything resembling ‘security.’

“This week, as thousands of federal workers return to work, many do so with the burden of missing paychecks, credit risks, and thousands of unread e-mails, among other serious issues. The 15th District of Texas holds one of the highest employment rates of federal workers in the nation. This hit home. This hit my constituents, friends, neighbors, and my own community.

“President Trump and Congressional Republicans must join Democrats, as public servants – held accountable by oath, to enact legislation that provides responsible government funding before the February 15 deadline. The American people and economy cannot afford another government shutdown.”

The Democrats could have easily kept the government open. All they had to do was give Trump the 3 Billion that the pending shutdown was gonna cost. Now, no one gets it. Another government shutdown would have completely paid for the Wall. So, it's not on Trump. It's on the Democrats. The 3 Billion could have gone toward paying American workers to build the wall, ultimately going into the economy. Instead, Democrats want to play hardball.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Immigrants Participating in Health and Nutrition Programs Become Latest Target of Trump Administration Deportation Efforts

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Over the weekend, the Trump administration released a proposed rule to dramatically expand how individuals’ use of critical health programs and services to meet basic living requirements like food and shelter may be evaluated to determine eligibility for green cards or admission to the United States. As stated in the proposed rule, a person may be denied admission to the US, lawful permanent resident (LPR) status or a visa extension on “public charge” grounds if they use certain health, nutrition, and housing programs.

These drastic proposed changes to how public charge is evaluated in the immigration system will have sweeping implications for how immigrant families access health care in the United States, potentially discouraging millions of eligible individuals from receiving medical attention, while exacerbating child poverty, hunger and homelessness. The publication of the proposed changes to public charge opens a 60-day comment period in which advocates and the public can respond.

Said Erin Quinn, Senior Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

“Rather than allowing eligible families to access the support they need to stay healthy and thrive, the Trump administration is targeting the most vulnerable with this proposed rule. It would force immigrants to make the choice between receiving care to cover the basic needs for themselves and their families or endangering their immigration status. This is not a choice that any individual should have to make and it is one that betrays our country’s storied commitment to compassion and opportunity.

“This unacceptable proposal is the latest effort in this administration’s ongoing effort to dismantle a system that serves as a safety net for those trying to make a life in the United States. We all benefit from healthy communities and we should be protecting this already-underserved population, not threatening their ability to live legally in this country if they access the few assurances of health and safety available to them.

“This is the latest move in the Trump agenda to target people of color—but the narrow, outdated vision Trump promotes of who belongs no longer holds true as a majority of Americans support humane immigration policies. Furthermore, this proposed rule change undermines our communities and families--cornerstones of American life.”

Importantly, this proposed rule is not yet law. The ILRC joins other advocacy groups in submitting comments to the proposed rule change during the 60-day comment period. We will continue to work with immigrants and their families to ensure they do not forego critical benefits and services for which they are eligible. This rule change does not affect lawful permanent residents who are seeking naturalization. Unless and until this rule is enacted, immigrants can continue to use programs for which they qualify without any new immigration-related consequence.

HRC Responds to HHS Discriminating Against Jewish, LGBTQ, and Other Families

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) organization, responded to a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to grant a waiver from federal non-discrimination requirements to South Carolina’s Foster Care Program, which has contracted with a child welfare provider who seeks permission to refuse to serve prospective parents who do not share their religious beliefs, but who wants to continue to receive federal funding to provide those services. South Carolina requested the waiver to allow federal funds to go to a child welfare agency that refused to place children with Jewish families. By granting that waiver, HHS is opening the door to federally-funded discrimination justified by religious belief against any number of prospective parents, including single parents, LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples, parents who may previously have been divorced, interfaith couples, or people of deep faith that happens to be of another religion.

“Every decision that is made by a provider of child welfare services must be grounded in doing what is the best interest of the child, period. Providing care for these kids is critically important, and too many kids languish in the foster care system because there aren’t enough foster and adoptive parents for each child. Allowing a federal contractor the ability to refuse to work with qualified prospective parents - limiting the pool of prospective parents even further - is directly counter to the best interests of the children waiting for families,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director & Senior Counsel. “The federal government has a compelling interest in ensuring federal contractors are providing quality care, and in ensuring that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for taxpayer-funded discrimination. This waiver is unconscionable, in no small part because it prioritizes federal contractors over kids in need of families.”

Federal law prohibits discrimination in federally-funded programs against foster parents on religious grounds, but ten states permit discrimination by state-licensed foster care organizations against LGBTQ people,same-sex coupless and others if doing so conflicts with the organization’s religious beliefs.

HRC recently released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care. The report debunks the myth that having more providers is the key to higher rates of placement in homes; the bottleneck is not the number of providers, but the number of prospective parents. Where providers have ceased to provide services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws, placement rates did not decrease.significantly as a result.

Further, research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. Granting this waiver will only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.

Schiff and Cummings Statement on Intimidation of Michael Cohen

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement in response to a request received by Michael Cohen to postpone his upcoming testimony before Congress:

“We have received Mr. Cohen’s notice postponing his voluntary appearance in an open hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Reform. We certainly understand the completely legitimate concerns for the safety and security of Mr. Cohen and his family members in light of the attacks last week by President Trump and again this past weekend by his attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

“As we stated previously with our colleague, Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are textbook mob tactics that we condemn in the strongest terms. Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress. The President should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’ independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.

“We understand that Mr. Cohen’s wife and other family members fear for their safety after these attacks, and we have repeatedly offered our assistance to work with law enforcement to enhance security measures for Mr. Cohen and his family.

“Nevertheless, when our Committees began discussions with Mr. Cohen’s attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option. We will not let the President’s tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. This will not stop us from getting to the truth. We expect Mr. Cohen to appear before both Committees, and we remain engaged with his counsel about his upcoming appearances.”

Democratic Leaders Condemn Trump Administration Move to Allow Discrimination in Foster Care

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) released the following statement regarding the Trump administration’s decision to allow foster care placement agencies to discriminate using federal funds:

“Through today’s decision, the Trump administration is endorsing discrimination by giving taxpayer money to foster care entities that discriminate against foster parents based on religious beliefs. Even worse, this waiver allows the foster care system to engage in discrimination that ignores the best interests of our most vulnerable children and exacerbates the shortage of qualified foster parents.

“We must reject all attempts to discriminate based on race, religion, or any other protected class. But for a taxpayer-funded organization to deny children a loving home based on religious beliefs is a particularly egregious violation of a fundamental American principle.”

Healthcare Leadership Council Endorses Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Health Insurance Tax Delay for Two Years

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- A multi-sector alliance of healthcare leaders has endorsed bipartisan Senate legislation that would prevent the health insurance tax, currently suspended until the end of 2019, from being implemented for two additional years.

The Healthcare Leadership Council, comprised of chief executives from the nation’s leading healthcare companies, said it will support the “Health Insurance Tax Relief Act,” introduced by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The tax, applied to health insurers on the premiums they collect, would result in higher health coverage costs, for tens of millions of consumers and employers. According to the Oliver Wyman consulting firm, if the tax goes into effect, annual premiums will rise by more than $450 for families in either the large or small group markets. Individuals in the non-group market would pay nearly $200 more per year.

“This is an unnecessary, counterproductive tax that would make health insurance less affordable for millions of American families,” said HLC president Mary R. Grealy. “There is much work to be done in this Congress to bring greater stability to the health insurance marketplace and contain healthcare costs through value-focused reforms, but lawmakers must start by preventing the harm that will occur if this tax becomes effective at the end of the year.”

Ms. Grealy said must act expeditiously on this legislation because health insurers will soon be determining their rates for 2020 and will have to factor in the expected costs from this tax if it is not eliminated or suspended.

“We’re very pleased that this effort has such strong bipartisan leadership,” said Ms. Grealy. “The sponsors of this legislation deserve praise for reaching across the aisle to seek health coverage affordability for patients and consumers.”

Big News For California’s Gun Owners: U.S. Supreme Court Set To Hear The First Major 2nd Amendment Case In Ten Years.

Springfield, VA - January 24, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- the United States Supreme Court granted a Writ of Certiorari in NYSRP v. NY City, a case in which Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) have submitted an amicus brief.

This case challenges New York City’s near-prohibition on possessing or transporting handguns, and this is the first major Second Amendment challenge to be reviewed by the Supreme Court in almost a decade.

GOA’s executive director, Erich Pratt, stated, “Gun owners across the country — especially those ‘behind enemy lines’ living in anti-gun states — are rejoicing that the Supreme Court is taking up a Second Amendment case. For far too long, judges have ignored the Second Amendment, along with the Heller and McDonald decisions, instead employing a ‘balancing’ test that effectively leaves gun owners in anti-gun states with a second-class right to keep and bear arms.”

In fact, GOA’s brief specifically challenges the “balancing” approach taken by judges in the lower courts.

GOA’s brief states, “Heller and McDonald leave little doubt that courts are to assess gun bans and regulations based on text, history, and tradition, not by a balancing test … [where judges] usurp the role of the Framers of the Second Amendment.”

“GOA’s hard-hitting brief before the Supreme Court cuts to the heart of this problem by arguing that judges have to follow the Constitution — and the text of the Second Amendment — rather than imposing their own preconceived views upon the text,” Pratt concluded.

GOA’s brief can be viewed here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Washington, D.C. - January 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) joined 180 Democrats in unveiling the Raise the Wage Act of 2019. The bill would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, index future minimum wage increases to median wage growth, and ensure all workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by phasing out the subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities.

“American workers are overdue for a raise,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 nationwide will be good for workers, good for businesses, and good for the economy. I am proud to stand with my Democratic colleagues to support this proposal that would put money in the pockets of 40 million hardworking Americans and support local economies and the economic growth of our nation.”

Currently, there is no place in America where a full-time worker can make the $7.25 federal minimum wage and afford the basic essentials. The federal minimum wage has not been raised in nearly a decade. This year, the minimum wage in New York City increased to $15 for businesses with more than 10 employees.

According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 58% of Americans support increasing the minimum wage to $15.

The Raise the Wage Act would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over the next six years to lift millions of workers out of poverty, stimulate local economies, and restore the value of minimum wage; index future increases in the federal minimum wage to median wage growth to ensure the value of minimum wage does not once again erode over time; and, guarantee tipped workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by repealing the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which will ensure consistent, livable pay.

Additionally, the bill would guarantee teen workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by repealing the rarely used subminimum wage for youth workers; and, end subminimum wage certificates for individuals with disabilities to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be competitively employed, taxpaying citizens and participate more fully in their communities.


To read the bill text of the Raise the Wage Act, click here.

To read the section-by-section of the Raise the Wage Act, click here.

To read a fact sheet on Raise the Wage Act, click here.


Washington, D.C. - January 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Michael McCaul, the Committee’s Ranking Member welcomed unanimous passage in the House of Representatives of legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters and encourage negotiations to end the nearly eight-year old crisis. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act is named for the former Syrian military photographer known as “Caesar” who documented Assad’s horrific brutality.

“The world has failed the Syrian people. Nothing can undo the horrors they have had to endure for nearly eight years. Nothing can bring back those who have been lost. But the world owes it to the living and the dead to try to bring this crisis to an end. And the role America must play is to push for a political solution that allows the Syrian people to choose their own future. That’s what American leadership looks like. That’s what sets us apart from other great powers on the world stage. We simply cannot look the other way and allow Assad, Russia, and Iran to steamroll over Syria,” said Chairman Engel on the House floor. “My bill would give the Administration greater leverage to raise the cost for Assad and crack down on his lifelines.”

Ranking Member McCaul said, “For seven years, the brutal Assad regime has carried out a merciless campaign of violence and murder with impunity. In order to secure lasting peace in the region, we need a strategy that moves beyond Assad’s debilitating stronghold to encourage negotiations and pursue a political solution to end this conflict. This legislation provides the Administration much-needed leverage to impose sanctions against Assad and his backers, punish war criminals, and cut off funding that fuels the regime’s war tactics. We must act immediately to hold Assad and his supporters accountable to deter this perpetual cycle of brutality against the innocent people of Syria. I look forward getting this vital legislation over to the White House.”

The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019 is named in honor of the former Syrian military photographer “Caesar” who risked his life to show members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Assad’s torture of Syrian civilians. This bill would impose new sanctions on human rights abuses, encourage negotiations, and authorize the State Department to support entities that are collecting and preserving the chain of evidence for eventual prosecution of those committing war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria. This legislation also leaves flexibility for the Administration so that sanctions can be waived on a case-by-case basis to keep negotiations moving along.

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act would require the President to impose new sanctions on anyone who

  • Does business with or provides financing to the Government of Syria, including Syrian intelligence and security services, or the Central Bank of Syria;
  • Provides aircraft or spare parts for aircraft to Syria’s airlines (including financing);
  • Is involved with construction and engineering projects controlled by the Syrian government; or
  • Supports Syria’s energy industry.

  • The bill includes provisions to ensure that non-governmental organizations providing assistance to Syria are not inadvertently caught by sanctions, except in the case of a designated terrorist.

    Under the bill, the President could waive sanctions on a case-by-case basis. Also, sanctions could be suspended if the parties are engaged in meaningful negotiations and the violence against civilians has ceased. Suspension would be renewable if the suspension is critical to the continuation of negotiations and attacks against civilians have not resumed.

    Diaz-Balart: Democratic Leadership Rejects Another Bipartisan Solution to End Shutdown

    Washington, D.C. - January 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) issued the following statement after he testified before the House Rules Committee on his amendment that includes $5.7 billion in border security, the most recent version of the DREAM bill presented by House Democrats, a permanent solution for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries with status nearing expiration, and $12.7 billion in supplemental disaster relief.

    “At the Rules Committee this evening, I presented a commonsense solution to end this government shutdown. The amendment I proposed includes funding for border security, provides permanent relief for DREAMers and TPS recipients, and delivers critical dollars to communities impacted by natural disasters. This shutdown is unnecessary and is hurting the thousands of federal employees furloughed and the countless American families who depend on federal programs. I am exceedingly disappointed Democratic leadership has yet again rejected an amendment which would garner bipartisan support and will not have the opportunity to be debated on the House floor. My amendment not only gets us closer to reopening our government, but also protects our national security, addresses vulnerable immigrant communities who seek legal status, and helps those who are rebuilding after Hurricane Michael. Once again, I urge Democratic leadership to consider a real solution to ending the shutdown, whether it be one of my proposals or that of another Member of Congress, that will have a fair chance at Senate consideration and becoming law.”

    Earlier this month, Diaz-Balart presented four similar amendments that addressed DREAMers, TPS, and border security and would have opened the government. Democratic leadership also rejected those amendments.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2019

    BREAKING: Federal Lawsuit Filed Challenging Trump Bump-Stock Ban; Injunction Sought

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Friday, attorneys for an owner of a “bump-stock” device and three constitutional rights advocacy organizations filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s new confiscatory ban on firearm parts, additionally challenging Matthew Whitaker’s legal authority to serve as Acting Attorney General and issue rules without being nominated to the role and confirmed by the Senate or by operation of law. A copy of the court filings can be viewed at

    The plaintiffs also filed a motion seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the Trump Administration from implementing and enforcing the new regulation. The lawsuit, captioned as Guedes, et al. v. BATFE, et al., is backed by Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Firearms Policy Foundation (FPF), and Madison Society Foundation (MSF), also institutional plaintiffs in the case.

    “Bump-stocks” were legal under federal law and prior determinations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives until the agency issued a new final rulemaking today. Under the new rule, owners of the devices have just 90 days to surrender or destroy their property, after which they could face federal ‘machinegun’ charges that carry up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each violation.

    The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Joshua Prince and Adam Kraut of Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C. Prince and Kraut previously filed a nearly 1,000-page formal opposition to the proposed regulation, which included a video exhibit showing the actual operation of a “bump-stock” device on an AR-15 type firearm. That opposition and its 35 exhibits can be viewed at

    “The ATF has misled the public about bump-stock devices,” Prince said. “Worse, they are actively attempting to make felons out of people who relied on their legal opinions to lawfully acquire and possess devices the government unilaterally, unconstitutionally, and improperly decided to reclassify as ‘machineguns’. We are optimistic that the court will act swiftly to protect the rights and property of Americans who own these devices, and once the matter has been fully briefed and considered by the court, that the regulation will be struck down permanently.”

    In a January statement, Firearms Policy Coalition said that the federal “DOJ and BATFE clearly lack the statutory authority to re-define the targeted devices as ‘machineguns.’” Following that, in February, FPC also commented that as they “opposed the lawless manner in which President Obama often ruled by ‘pen-and-a-phone’ executive fiat,” they objected to and would fight “President Trump’s outrageous lawlessness here.”

    “In its rulemaking, the Trump Administration is attempting to abuse the system, ignore the statutes passed by the Congress, and thumb its nose at the Constitution without regard to the liberty and property rights of Americans. That is unacceptable and dangerous,” explained Adam Kraut, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It is beyond comprehension that the government would seek establish a precedent that it can arbitrarily redefine terms and subject thousands of people to serious criminal liability and the loss of property.”

    To support this lawsuit and for more information click HERE

    SCOTUS Hits Pause Button on Activist Judges Taking Military Policy Out of the President's Hands

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will allow the Trump administration’s transgender military policy to go into effect while litigation continues.

    Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a Marine veteran, released the following statement:

    “It’s refreshing to see the U.S. Supreme Court rein in lower court judges who are bent on telling the commander-in-chief how to run the military. Those charged with the difficult and complex work of keeping our nation safe cannot do their job with rogue judges injecting their personal opinions into every social issues case which reaches their courts. With different judges issuing these different opinions all over the country, our nation will quickly become paralyzed. There is a reason the Constitution so clearly explains that the president is the final authority on military policy. The Constitution grants judges no power to divert military resources away from preparing to fight wars and into social engineering.

    “There are literally hundreds of conditions or physical limitations disqualifying people from military service. Does that make the military exclusionary? Yes. But the Pentagon isn't in the business of equality. It's in the business of fighting and winning wars. Either the military's priority is protecting America -- or it's helping people on the path to self-actualization. It can't do both.

    “The U.S. Supreme Court is right to leave the responsibility for keeping our military strong and country safe where it belongs: with our commander-in-chief,” concluded Perkins.

    Smithsonian survey finds 61 percent of U.S. servicemembers oppose opening military to individuals who identify as transgender

    The unemployment rate fell in most states in 2018

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The State and Regional Employment report for December, released on this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), showed continued job gains in 44 states and the District of Columbia, with six states experiencing job losses. Additionally, in 38 states and the District of Columbia the unemployment rate either declined or held steady.

    “In 2018, the unemployment rate fell in 41 states and the District of Columbia, and the economy added 220,000 jobs every month on average,” said Economic Analyst Jessica Schieder. “This is good news, but 2019 could potentially bring tighter Fed policy and slower government spending. With any boost from the tax cuts behind us, these factors could rein in growth even as workers are still continuing to rejoin the labor market.”

    From September to December, 48 states and the District of Columbia added jobs, with South Carolina (1.7 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent), South Dakota (1.1 percent), Wyoming (1.0 percent), and Alabama (0.9 percent) having the highest percent change in job growth. Over the last three months, the number of jobs fell in two states, Alaska (-0.3 percent) and Maine (-0.2 percent).

    From July to October, unemployment rates fell in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Delaware (-0.3 percentage points), Maryland (-0.3 percentage points), Massachusetts (-0.3 percentage points), and Oklahoma (-0.3 percentage points) saw the largest declines in unemployment rates. The unemployment rate increased in 12 states. The largest increases in unemployment rates occurred in Colorado (0.4 percentage points), Hawaii (0.3 percentage points), and Oregon (0.3 percentage points).

    Consumer Action joins coalition pushing back at drug patent abuse

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Americans pay up to 65 percent more for drugs than citizens in other Western countries. One of the reasons is "patent abuse" by drug companies aiming to extend their monopolies as patents are due to expire on brand-name, profit-center drugs. In fact, 75 percent of all pharmaceutical patents between 2005 and 2015 were issued on old, previously patented medicines, not new drugs.

    Consumer Action has joined the Coalition Against Patent Abuse (CAPA), a new effort by healthcare providers, consumer groups, patient advocacy organizations, free market advocates, employers and others to fight abuses of the patent system that can extend government-granted monopolies that illegitimately keep drug prices high for years, or even decades.

    "Consumer Action strongly agrees with our colleagues in the new coalition that regulators and Congress must work to efficiently eliminate patents sought by drug companies for protectionsim, not innovation," said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for the San Francisco-based non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization. "CAPA will work to highlight the issue and put pressure on those with the power to stop the abuses."

    Legal shenanigans by brand-name drug companies keep medicine prices high for patients, taxpayers and payers of healthcare. They also stifle innovation and medical advancements. CAPA will focus primarily on untoward efforts to maintain government-granted monopolies through abuses of the patent system by drug manufacturers. These tactics by certain brand-name drug companies prevent patients from affordably accessing the life-saving medicines they need, and drain resources to pay for healthcare.

    Center for Immigration Studies Files a Civil RICO Lawsuit Against the President of Southern Poverty Law Center

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Center for Immigration Studies has filed a civil lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of Montgomery, Ala. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and seeks damages and an injunction prohibiting Cohen and his colleague, Heidi Beirich, who heads the group's "hate group" project, from repeating the false claim that the Center is a hate group.

    Read the Complaint.

    Overview of the SPLC's "Hate Groups" List.

    View Mark Krikorian's Interview with Tucker Carleson on the SPLC Lawsuit.

    The case is brought pursuant to the federal RICO statute because Cohen and Beirich have been carrying out their scheme to destroy CIS through the SPLC "enterprise" for two years and will not stop without judicial intervention. "CIS does not hate immigrants or anyone else" said CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian. "Our purpose is to make the case for a pro-immigrant policy of lower immigration – fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted. SPLC attacks us simply because it disagrees with these policy views. SPLC and its leaders have every right to oppose our work on immigration, but they do not have the right to label us a hate group and suggest we are racists. The Center for Immigration Studies is fighting back against the SPLC smear campaign and its attempt to stifle debate through intimidation and name-calling."

    The complaint makes clear that SPLC knows CIS does not meet its own definition of a "hate group," which SPLC describes as an organization whose "official statements or principles... attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics." (Complaint, ¶14, quoting from SPLC’s website) CIS has not attacked or maligned immigrants. Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that being an immigrant is not an immutable characteristic because it is the result of a personal choice. (Plyler v. Doe, 487 U.S. 202, 220 (1982).) CIS regularly opposes higher levels of immigration for sound public policy reasons, not because of any animus toward immigrants as human beings. CIS hopes this lawsuit will cause Mr. Cohen and Ms. Beirich to turn their attention to actual cases of racial animus.


    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the Kentucky Catholic students and what actually happened:

    There were three parties to the dustup that occurred on January 18.

    Catholic students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who had participated in the March for Life, assembled on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial waiting for buses to take them home. In the same vicinity were Native Americans; they had come for the Indigenous Peoples Rally. Black Israelites, who believe that black Americans are God’s chosen people (they claim to be the real descendants of the Hebrews), were also there.

    Initial news reports blamed the students. One of the students, Nick Sandmann, was shown smirking at a Native American man, Nathan Phillips—who was standing very close to the student beating a drum—and it quickly became a social media sensation. Much was made of the Donald Trump hat that Sandmann and other students wore, “Make America Great Again.” The students were shown in a short video laughing and chanting. They were accused of mocking the 64-year-old Phillips.

    The Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School issued a joint statement apologizing for what happened and pledged to investigate the matter; they said sanctions would be forthcoming, possibly expulsion.

    Politicians, pundits, and bloggers went wild. A second video emerged, one that was much longer, and it shows that the black Israelites were the real thugs. Moreover, interviews given by Phillips show him to be a liar.

    Here is a selection of news reports on the second video that was published on January 21.

    The following was taken from

    “The Black Israelites had a spot on the steps where they quoted from the Bible and yelled abuse, some of it racist.

    “‘You got all these dirty-ass crackers behind you with a red Make America Great Again hat on,’ one of the Black Israelites said in the video of the event filmed by another of their members.

    “Later, the man told another person: ‘I bet you’re a dumb-ass Puerto Rican.’

    “He also abused African Americans nearby.

    “As the abuse continued, the school students surrounded the Black Israelites and started to sing songs, dance and cheer each other on, drowning them out.

    “At one point in the video one of the black men told the students around him, ‘You got on the back of the court system ‘In God we trust’, on the back of the dollar bill it says ‘In God we trust’, but you give faggots rights.'”

    The news story also said “Footage does not show students seeking out Mr. Phillips, or ‘attacking’ him,” thus corroborating the statement by Sandmann that was released to the press. It was Phillips who approached the students.

    The following was taken from CNN Wire.

    “In the new video, another group taunts the students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky with disparaging and vulgar language. The group of black men, who identify as members of the Hebrew Israelites, also shout racist slurs at participants of the Indigenous Peoples Rally and other passersby.

    “The men [black Israelites] repeatedly use the n-word to refer to the black teens in the group, prompting cries from the group. The men ask the students if the water they’re drinking ‘tastes like incest’ and call the students ‘young Klansmen.’

    “The teens listen for a few minutes longer, accusing the men of being racist and booing when the main speaker uses the word ‘faggots’ when talking about equal rights.

    “Then, the students get a signal from off camera to leave. They cheer and wave, chanting ‘let’s go home’ as they run off.

    “The video continues for another 20 minutes as the men turn their focus to a prayer circle that formed while they were talking to the students. The lead speaker shouts denunciations of the Catholic church, calling its members ‘child molesters’ and quotes scripture.”

    The following is from the New York Times.

    Speaking of the first video, the paper notes that the students were widely criticized. “But on Sunday, Mr. Phillips clarified that it was he who had approached the crowd and that he had intervened because racial tensions—primarily between the white students and the black men—were ‘coming to a boiling point.’

    “In his statement, Mr. Sandmann said he did not antagonize or try to block Mr. Phillips. ‘I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gesture or other aggressive moves,’ he said.

    “I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation,” he said. ‘I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me—to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.'”

    The following is from the Washington Post:

    “The Israelites and students exchanged taunts, videos show. The Native Americans and Hebrew Israelites say some students shouted, ‘Build the wall!’ although that chant is not heard on the widely circulated videos, and the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted a student at the center of the confrontation who said he did not hear anyone say it.

    “At one point, the Hebrew Israelites began arguing with Native American activists, telling them the word ‘Indian’ means ‘savage,’ according to the video.”

    Regarding Phillips, the Native American told the Washington Post that he sought to act as an intermediary between the white students and the black provocateurs. But peacemakers don’t taunt, and that is what he did: he taunted Sandmann by beating his drum in his face. More important, he told the Detroit News that the white boys provoked the black men, which is (a) not true and (b) does not square with what he told the Post.

    The critics of the students have a lot of explaining to do. I will address them in a separate statement.

    For more information, see also: Outcry after Kentucky students in Maga hats mock Native American veteran

    Statement on a Texas Federal Court Decision on the Affordable Care Act

    Source: Catholic Health Association

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- “The Catholic Health Association is very disappointed in the recent Texas federal district court decision on the Affordable Care Act. We profoundly disagree with it from a legal perspective. It is un-American and immoral to be aggressively seeking to take health insurance from the over 20 million people who have finally received coverage through the ACA. This decision would also take away health security provisions from all insured Americans by eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions, the ability for children under 26 to remain on their parents’ policies and co-pays for preventive health care, all of which have made a positive difference in the lives of many Americans. Efforts to undermine or overturn the ACA by elected officials who have a responsibility to act on behalf of their constituents is reckless, irresponsible and poses a major threat to the health of the American people.

    CHA joined with several other organizations that represent hospitals and health systems in submitting an Amicus brief to the court in this lawsuit. We will continue to voice our opinion and concerns as the lawsuit is appealed and pledge to work with members of Congress to ensure that the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act remain in place. We all have a responsibility to promote quality health care for all Americans.”

    Congresswoman Liz Cheney Statement on the Missile Defense Review

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Liz Cheney released the following statement regarding the release of the Missile Defense Review:

    “I applaud President Trump and the Department of Defense for their commitment to defending our nation from the threat of missile attack. The Missile Defense Review released this week provides a clear strategy to counter missile threats from rogue nations like Iran and North Korea. It also reassures our allies and partners throughout the world that we stand ready to help them deter and defend against aggression from revisionist powers like Russia and China.

    “The Missile Defense Review (MDR) puts us back on a path towards developing and fielding new and emerging capabilities to counter the advancements made by our adversaries over the past decade. Investments called for by the MDR in space-based sensors and boost-phase intercept are the type of forward-looking capabilities that are critically necessary if we want to stay ahead of our adversaries and defend against new and emerging threats like hypersonic weapons. Additionally, the MDR reinforces the need for a strong nuclear deterrence, as defined in the Nuclear Posture Review, to defend against the advanced intercontinental missile capabilities from Russia and China. The ongoing efforts by Russia and China to increase their nuclear capabilities makes the modernization of our nuclear triad more important than ever.

    “I commend President Trump for his commitment to strengthening our missile defense posture to ‘ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.’ It is now incumbent on Congress to provide the resources necessary to execute the critical plans, programs and policies laid out in the Missile Defense Review.”

    Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Statement on Federal Employee Health Care Coverage During the Government Shutdown

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Senior Vice President of Government Programs William A. Breskin issued the following statement today on federal employees’ health care coverage during the government shutdown.

    “Health care coverage for members of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program® (FEP®) remains in place and active during the government shutdown. The BCBS Federal Employee Program continues to process claims and reimburse doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. Eligible FEP members can also contact their local Blue Cross and Blue Shield company if they have a Qualifying Life Event, such as the birth of a baby, that allows them to change their coverage or add eligible individuals to their policy.

    We remain committed to the health and wellbeing of our members and want them to know that they will continue to have full access to their health care coverage during this time.”

    Congressman Brady Fights For The Unborn

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Friday, Congressman Kevin Brady (TX-08) released the following statement reiterating his commitment to pro-life causes and legislation:

    “Today, thousands will gather in our nation’s capital and come together in a March for Life, taking a passionate stand and supporting the sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn. As we move into the minority, it is more important than ever to safeguard the significant work we have done to protect life. My wife Cathy and I are parents only because of two women who chose life, and we know first-hand how impactful and important it can be. I remain committed to fighting for important pro-life and pro-family legislation in the 116th Congress.”

    Shawn Carney, resident of TX-08 and President and CEO of 40 Days For Life, stated:

    “As a husband and father of two adopted children, Congressman Brady has joined over 800,000 volunteers who have united across America and in 50 countries to peacefully pray for an end to abortion during a 40 Days for Life campaign. Our pro-life convictions should be reflected in pro-life bills that protect the most vulnerable Americans and defund the nation’s largest abortion operation, Planned Parenthood. Despite 46 years of legalized abortion there has never been more hope or momentum in the pro-life movement. A movement that gets younger by the day.”

    In the 116th Congress, Representative Brady has supported multiple pieces of pro-life legislation, including;

    · The Life at Conception Act, sponsored by Rep. Alex Mooney (WV-02), which provides equal protection for the lives of born and preborn persons.

    · The Defund Planned Parenthood Act, sponsored by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), which prohibits funding Planned Parenthood for one year, reallocating the savings to community health centers.

    · The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), which prohibits performing an abortion on an unborn baby who is 20 week or older.

    · The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02), which prohibits sex-selected abortions, aborting a child on the basis of the child’s gender.

    · The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04), which makes it a crime to knowingly transport a minor across a state line, circumventing parental consent and state notification requirements, in order to obtain an abortion

    Bergman Co-Sponsors Pay Our Coast Guard Act

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Jack Bergman has announced his support of a bipartisan bill to pay U.S. Coast Guard members during the partial government shutdown. H.R. 367, the Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act of 2019, would provide all pay and benefits for members of the Coast Guard as well as the roughly 50,000 Coast Guard military retirees who will not receive a paycheck on February 1st if the shutdown continues. Congressman Bergman issued the following release:

    "Michigan's First District is home to Coast Guard Station Sault Ste. Marie and Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City. From Ice-breaking to life-saving search and rescue efforts, the men and women of the Coast Guard continue their work despite Congress' failure to appropriate money to pay them. I appreciate my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who recognize this, and have come together among many disagreements to ensure our Coast Guardsmen and women receive the pay they've earned," said Bergman.

    The Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act of 2019 includes:

  • Pay and allowances for active duty and reserve members of the Coast Guard;
  • Pay and allowances for civilian employees of the Coast Guard;
  • Pay and allowances for contractors of the Coast Guard;
  • The payment of death gratuities with respect to members of the Coast Guard;
  • The payment or reimbursement of authorized funeral travel;
  • The temporary continuation of a basic allowance of housing for dependents of members of the Coast Guard dying on active duty; and
  • Coast Guard retired pay and benefits.

  • Rep. Bergman also co-sponsored legislation which would prohibit Members of Congress from receiving pay in the event of a government shutdown, saying "If Congress fails to do its job resulting in a shutdown, then we should forfeit our pay as well. American citizens sent us to Washington to solve problems, not cause them. If we can't do that, we don’t deserve to get paid.”

    Beatty, Wagner Team Up to Tackle Human Trafficking

    Washington, D.C. - January 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH, 3rd) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO, 2nd) recently authored two bipartisan pieces of legislation to combat the scourge of human trafficking: the Human Trafficking Accountability Act, H.R. 509, and the Trafficking Victims Housing Act, H.R. 508. Introduced on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11, 2019), the bills aim to improve prosecution of alleged traffickers, as well as establish a means of measuring the availability of housing and related services for victims experiencing homelessness.

    Human trafficking is a scourge on our nation and our world. It is estimated that over 40 million people are the victims of human trafficking—the vast majority of them being women and girls,” Beatty said. “That is why we as a nation must continue working together to provide justice and greater support for victims and their families. We have made significant progress, but our work continues.”

    Sex trafficking is a vicious crime that will flourish until we increase prosecutions and elevate risk for traffickers. Human trafficking is too common and prosecutions of pimps and buyers too infrequent in our country.” Wagner continued, “The Human Trafficking Accountability Act will help prosecute more traffickers and hold accountable the criminals who exploit women and children.”

    If passed, the Human Trafficking Accountability Act would require at least one Assistant U.S. Attorney in each judicial district to serve as a Human Trafficking Justice Coordinator (HTJC), who would be responsible for ensuring increased exploration of all potential cases of human trafficking, and direct the Attorney General to designate a career Deputy Assistant Attorney General as Human Trafficking Coordinator (HTC) at the Department of Justice, who would be responsible for coordinating the HTJCs across the country. These positions would: (1) prosecute cases of forced labor, international sex trafficking and similar acts of force, fraud or coercion as well as ensure restitution for victims; (2) collaborate with various federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, and victims services providers to build partnerships to better identify and prosecute human trafficking cases with a victim-centered approach; and (3) improve outreach and awareness of human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Accountability Act has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

    The Trafficking Victims Housing Act, if enacted, would direct the Interagency Council on Homelessness, in coordination with the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, and other federal entities to complete a study assessing the availability and accessibility of housing and related services for victims of trafficking, or those at risk of being trafficked, who are experiencing homelessness. This bill is awaiting further consideration in the House Committee on Financial Services.

    Of note, in Beatty’s three previous Congressional terms, she helped spearhead two anti-human trafficking bills that were later signed into law: the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) (P.L. 114-22) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) (P.L. 115-164).

    Monday, January 21, 2019

    Artistic freedom at heart of case Arizona Supreme Court will hear Tuesday

    Phoenix, AZ - January 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Under threat of up to six months jail time, two artists will be at the Arizona Supreme Court Tuesday seeking to stop a sweeping Phoenix criminal law that forces them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs. Artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, and their attorney who will argue before the court on their behalf, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, will hold a press conference following the oral arguments.

    The civil liberties lawsuit, Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix, challenges the ordinance because Phoenix interprets its law in a way that illegally controls artistic expression and disregards religious liberty—violating the freedom of Duka and Koski to choose which messages they will convey and refrain from conveying consistent with their beliefs.

    “The government shouldn’t threaten artists with jail time and fines to force them to create art that violates their beliefs,” said Scruggs. “Joanna and Breanna work with all people; they just don’t promote all messages. They, like all creative professionals, should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment. Instead, government must protect the freedom of artists to choose which messages to express through their own creations. Because the Arizona Constitution protects the freedom of creative professionals to choose for themselves what art they will create, we are asking the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Joanna and Breanna. If we want to have freedom and tolerance for ourselves, we need to extend it to others.”

    “Courts have long recognized individuals’ right ‘to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster…an idea they find morally objectionable…,” the most recent brief ADF attorneys filed with the Arizona Supreme Court explains. “Yet Phoenix tramples that right when it requires a calligrapher to pick up her pen and a painter her brush, and then, under threat of jail and crippling fines, forces them to conceive and then create original artwork expressing messages that violate their core religious convictions. Such government compulsion violates the fundamental liberty ‘to refrain from speaking….’”

    “Phoenix says this liberty is novel and dangerous; it is actually narrow and unexceptional…,” the brief continues. “And Joanna and Breanna, the artists and owners of Brush & Nib Studio, are entitled to exercise it. These women of deep religious faith gladly serve everyone, including those in the LGBT community; their faith simply prevents them from expressing certain messages for anyone. So this case is not about whether businesses can decline to serve an entire class of people. It is about whether artists can freely choose which messages their own art conveys.”

    Duka and Koski specialize in creating custom artwork using hand painting, hand lettering, and calligraphy to celebrate weddings and other events. The women’s religious convictions guide them in determining which messages they can and cannot promote through their custom artwork.

    Phoenix interprets its ordinance, City Code Section 18-4(B), in a way that forces artists, like Duka and Koski, to use their artistic talents to celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs, even when they decide what art they create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics. It also bans them from publicly communicating what custom artwork they can and cannot create consistent with their faith. The law threatens up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years of probation for each day that there is a violation.

    Numerous state attorneys general, Arizona lawmakers, various scholars, and a diverse array of business, artistic, and faith-based groups last month filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Arizona Supreme Court in support of Duka and Koski and preserving artistic and religious freedom.

    Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

    Bipartisan Legislation To Protect Privacy of Consumers’ Online Data Introduced

    Washington, D.C. - January 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Social Media Privacy and Consumer Rights Act, bipartisan legislation that will protect the privacy of consumers’ online data. The legislation will improve transparency, strengthen consumers’ recourse options when a breach of data occurs and ensure companies are compliant with privacy policies that protect consumers.

    “I don’t want to regulate Facebook or any private social media company, but these platforms continue to compromise their users’ private data,” Kennedy said. “Our legislation reinforces data privacy standards and requires these companies to be transparent with how they are using our private information. In today’s world, private data is the equivalent of our personal identities, and companies need to know that they’ll be held accountable when they violate the public’s trust and compromise our private information. Our legislation does just that.”

    “Every day, companies profit off of the data they’re collecting from Americans, yet leave consumers completely in the dark about how their personal information, online behavior and private messages are being used. Consumers should have the right to control their personal data,” Klobuchar said. “Our legislation would ensure that companies use plain language to explain to consumers how their data is being used, allow consumers to opt out of certain data tracking and collection, and require companies to notify consumers of privacy violations within 72 hours of a breach.”

    Social media and other online platforms routinely capture users’ behavior and personal information, which is then used to help advertisers or other third parties target those users. Kennedy and Klobuchar’s legislation would protect the privacy of consumers’ online data. Specifically, the Social Media Privacy and Consumer Rights Act would:

  • Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection,
  • Provide users greater access to and control over their data,
  • Require terms of service agreements to be in plain language,
  • Ensure users have the ability to see what information about them has already been collected and shared,
  • Mandate that users be notified of a breach of their information within 72 hours,
  • Offer remedies for users when a breach occurs,
  • Require that online platforms have a privacy program in place.

    Related Information

    Amy Klobuchar, John Kennedy again push bipartisan online-privacy legislation in Senate

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