Monday, February 25, 2019

ACTION ALERT: Stop the Democrats' Socialist Green New Deal

by: Freedom Works Foundation

Democrat extremists like Al Gore and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want to completely ELIMINATE every single coal plant and mining job in the country by imposing their socialist Green New Deal on America.

Their disastrous scheme would devastate our military, eliminate nearly 90% of the U.S. energy sector, and even ban cars!

They don’t care about how horribly this will impact working families. All they care about is advancing their radical socialist agenda.

Help stop the Democrats’ socialist Green New Deal by signing the petition.

Report Warns of ‘Tariff Turmoil’ Absent Sweeping U.S.-China Trade Deal

by: Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce

Arlington, VA - February 25, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Trump administration rightly delayed an increase in tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on March 2nd because it would devastate U.S. producers, workers, and consumers, according to a new analysis from Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), entitled “Tariff Turmoil: The Effects of Section 301 Tariff Increases Told Through Businesses & Consumers.” In conjunction with the special report, at the online grassroots portal, a new feature lists sortable, state-by-state warnings about the negative impact of higher tariffs.

Freedom Partners Executive Vice President Nathan Nascimento issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration is right to delay the March 1 deadline and give U.S.-China trade talks more time. As our report illustrates, it is critical for Washington and Beijing to swiftly reach an agreement for both sides to eliminate tariffs and other non-tariff protectionist measures. Hundreds of job creators speak with one voice in our report: this 25 percent tariff endangers American prosperity. From rural farmers and small business manufacturers to national retailers and large corporations, trade builds America. Increasing the tariffs would mean higher costs for consumers, job losses for workers, and catastrophic harm for small businesses.”

AFP Senior Policy Fellow Alison Acosta Winters issued the following statement:

“The administration is right to delay increasing tariffs to 25 percent as negotiations continue and we continue to urge them to remove this tariff threat hanging over the country. Across thriving communities and bustling industries, trade is part of our economic powerhouse helping drive growth and improve lives. This new report gives a voice to hundreds of U.S. job creators warning of the devastating impact increasing tariffs to 25 percent on a vast array of Chinese imports would have on their businesses. The Trump administration should avoid the damage these tariffs would wreak on Americans by forging an agreement with Beijing that eliminates trade barriers.”


by: Faith and Freedom Coalition

Washington, D.C. - February 25, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Today, pro-infanticide Democrats in the United States Senate blocked cloture on S. 311 the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” to ensure legal protections for children who are born alive despite attempted abortion procedures.

Forty-four Democrat Senators, including all six of the Democratic senators currently running for President, Cory Booker (NJ), Sherrod Brown (OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Elizabeth Warren (MA), plus Bernie Sanders (VT), voted against the bill. Only three Democrats, Bob Casey Jr. (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Doug Jones (Ala.), voted in favor of the legislation.

“Today is a dark day in American history as Senate Democrats, including all those running for President, chose to support the murder of innocent babies alive outside the womb,” said Faith & Freedom Coalition Executive Director Tim Head. “The American people understand that the Supreme Court legalized abortion over 40 years ago; however, infanticide and abortion on demand violates our collective conscience. An overwhelming majority of Americans support common-sense restrictions on abortion, including this legislation to stop the abhorrent practice of denying medical care and taking the life of a child after they have been born.”

The Born Alive Survivors Protection Act would have amended Title 18 of the United States Code to provide legal personhood rights to any “infant born alive after an abortion or within a hospital, clinic, or other facility has the same claim to the protection of the law that would arise for any newborn, or for any person who comes to a hospital, clinic, or other facility for screening and treatment or otherwise becomes a patient within its care.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed for cloture to end debate and allow a straight up or down vote on this critical pro-life legislation to extend legal protections to children born alive in health care facilities nationwide, but S. 311 failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to end debate.

“Senators who voted against this bill to provide legal and health protections to children who have survived failed abortions have much soul searching to do,” added Head. “The barbaric practice of leaving young children to die despite their having survived an abortion procedure should not be tolerated in our country. But, unfortunately, purveyors of abortion-on-demand blocked this common-sense restriction on infanticide.”

Faith & Freedom Coalition will score each Senator’s vote against cloture as a vote in favor of abortion-on-demand, and those recorded votes will appear in tens of millions of Congressional Scorecards and voter guides which will be distributed to tens of millions of voters and over 100,000 churches during the 2020 election cycle.

Support of Bladensburg Veterans Memorial

by: Family Research Council

Washington, D.C. - February 26, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Wednesday, February 27, Alexandra McPhee, FRC's Director of Religious Freedom Advocacy, and an author of our amicus brief in the case, will give her reaction to the oral arguments in American Legion v. American Humanist Association. She will be available for comment on the steps of the Supreme Court immediately following the arguments in the case, which concerns the future of a historic cross-shaped veterans memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland.

Alexandra McPhee, FRC's Director of Religious Freedom Advocacy, made the following comments:

“Across the nation, monuments depicting religious imagery are being challenged by groups arguing that having these monuments on public property constitutes government establishment of a religion, even though these monuments are often greatly important to the local community. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case could have reverberating effects on whether religiously themed monuments may be maintained on government land anywhere.

“To find a display or memorial unconstitutional for its religious inspiration alone shortchanges a community’s history and culture. It also neglects the important role of religion in our public life. The Peace Cross, for instance, serves as a reminder to residents and visitors of the surrounding Bladensburg community that freedom has been bought with the lives of our loved ones. How can it be unconstitutional for the government to preserve that memory when it was the very same government that asked those loved ones to die for their country?” concluded McPhee.

WHO: Alexandra McPhee, Director of Religious Freedom Advocacy, Family Research Council

WHAT: Reactions to the oral arguments in the Bladensburg Cross Case

WHERE: Supreme Court of the United States, 1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543

WHEN: Wednesday, February 27, 2019, immediately following oral arguments (approximately 11:30 am Eastern)

T-Mobile Feels Heat on Jobs-Related Concerns, Lashes Out with Unsubstantiated and Hypocritical Attacks

by: Communication Workers of America

Washington, D.C. - February 26, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- With a growing number of elected officials and regulators expressing concerns about the jobs-related effects of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger, T-Mobile executives are clearly feeling the heat and starting to worry. How else to explain their ramped-up attempts to attack CWA’s credibility on jobs?

This week, Kathleen Ham, T-Mobile’s senior vice president for government affairs, told Communications Daily that CWA has “no credibility” on jobs - an inaccurate and wildly hypocritical assertion in light of T-Mobile’s real record on jobs and the job-killing impact of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger.

CWA’s comprehensive economic analysis shows that the merger will result the loss of 30,000 U.S. jobs—25,500 from the closure of overlapping retail stores and 4,500 at headquarters. New Street Research, an independent telecommunications and technology research firm which has been supportive of the merger, has estimated similar losses.

Ham’s comments come after T-Mobile CEO and President John Legere faced tough questioning during a hearing last week before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. T-Mobile is making a desperate attempt to obscure the job-killing impact of the merger by pledging to open customer experience centers if the merger proceeds—but the jobs pledge is filled with loopholes and would not come close to offsetting the 30,000 jobs that would be lost due to the merger. As CWA President Chris Shelton noted at the hearing, “trusting Sprint and T-Mobile with American jobs is like trusting a vampire at a blood bank.”

According to CWA President Chris Shelton, “T-Mobile is clearly feeling the heat on jobs-related concerns about the merger and is lashing out in a manner that is wildly disingenuous and incredibly hypocritical. T-Mobile has one of the worst records on workers’ rights issues in corporate America and the company has yet to explain why our analysis is incorrect. Just look at the store location maps. In many areas T-Mobile and Sprint stores practically sit on top of each other. They are going to close those stores to create “synergy” for their investors. We know what synergy means—pink slips for working people and more money for the German government, which owns T-Mobile, and Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, who owns Sprint.”

Club for Growth Supports Neomi Rao’s Confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

by: Club for Growth

Washington, D.C. - February 26, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Club for Growth President David McIntosh provided the following statement offering his support for Neomi Rao, President Trump’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:

“I have known Neomi for decades and have no doubt that she will be a principled jurist, cut from the same cloth as Justices Scalia and Thomas,” stated Club for Growth President David McIntosh.

“Not only is she eminently qualified for the position, she possesses an extensive knowledge of administrative rulemaking given her most recent time as the Director of President Trump’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House. Furthermore, the decades I have spent working with her on separation-of-powers issues demonstrate that she is an originalist who is faithful to the Constitution. Senate Republicans should not be thrown off track by rumors and innuendo, and instead should stand behind President Trump in support of this nominee. The Senate should move swiftly to confirm her.”

CVT Asks Kids “Should we help asylum seekers?” In New Digital Ad

by Center for Victims of Torture

St. Paul, MN - February 26, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- A new digital ad from the Center for Victims of TortureTM (CVT) strips away the rhetoric surrounding asylum and features children answering a simple but powerful question: Should we help asylum seekers?

Created and written by CVT and produced by Emergence Pictures, Inc., the ad is running until June on Facebook and will also be posted to CVT’s Twitter and Instagram platforms. The children in the ad are not actors, had no prior knowledge of what they would be asked and did not work from a script. The ad captures their genuine responses to a question many adults struggle to answer in this day and age. CVT’s ad is intended to challenge viewers to rethink preconceived notions about asylum seekers.

“The right to seek asylum is not complicated, but the politics surrounding it can be, as we’re reminded with each new attempt by this administration to weaken or shut down the U.S. asylum system,” said Curt Goering, CVT’s executive director. “Our new ad was created to get to the heart of why people seek asylum: safety. We know that as many as 44 percent of refugees, asylees and asylum-seekers living in the United States are torture survivors, and safety is paramount to healing. The straightforward, unbiased and un-coached responses from the children in our ad represent the very essence of our message: Asylum seekers need our help. We should help them. Period.

“For more than 33 years, CVT has rebuilt the lives and restored the hope of tens of thousands of refugee and asylum-seeking torture survivors and their families, and we have had the honor to witness remarkable healing among our clients when access to safety and rehabilitative care is available. We have also seen the heartbreaking results of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what it means to seek asylum. CVT has and will continue to educate about refugee and asylum issues and to dispel the myths about who refugees and asylum seekers really are. This ad is just one example of CVT striving to engage as many people as possible in order to dispel these myths.”

The Center for Victims of Torture is a nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Paul, MN, with offices in Atlanta, GA, and Washington, D.C.; and healing initiatives in Africa and the Middle East.

BPC Launches New Initiative to Develop Long-Term Solutions to Funding Federal Infrastructure Needs

By Bipartisan Policy Center

The Bipartisan Policy Center today announced that former Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Joe Crowley (D-NY) will lead a new Great American Rebuild Initiative to identify long-term mechanisms to finance the Highway Trust Fund. Their work will focus on developing potential long-term solutions to fully fund America’s critical infrastructure programs, up to and including ending the federal government’s reliance on the gas tax.

Under their leadership, the initiative will conduct a comprehensive review of potential revenue sources and develop recommendations to improve and sustainably fund trust fund programs. This effort aims to offer solutions that are practical, politically viable, and bipartisan.

Without new revenue sources, maintaining current spending levels will require an average bailout of general revenues of $20 billion per year. However, with increasing pressure on the federal budget—projections show federal deficits surpassing $1 trillion in 2019—forward movement on an infrastructure bill demands new, collective thinking on sustainable revenues.

“With the greater adoption of electric vehicles and more efficient gas-powered vehicles, the gas tax is increasingly untenable as a long-term funding source. Even if the gas tax were raised by 20 cents per gallon, as some interest groups suggested, Washington would still face a long-term funding crisis. Congress can no longer avoid a comprehensive examination of the federal role in funding our nation’s transportation infrastructure and the best means to meet those obligations,” said Shuster, the former chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The launch of the Great American Rebuild Initiative comes ahead of the expiration of the FAST Act, which authorizes federal spending on roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure, on September 30, 2020. In addition, the Highway Trust Fund balance will approach zero in fiscal year 2021.
“There is bipartisan agreement that infrastructure needs to be addressed, but no consensus on how to pay for those essential upgrades. Now is the time to come together and forge a new path forward to ensure our infrastructure can meet the needs of our economy,” said Crowley, a former member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

BPC’s Infrastructure Work
The Bipartisan Policy Center has played an integral role in infrastructure policy circles for over a decade with its leadership of several key infrastructure projects, including the Executive Council on Infrastructure and the National Transportation Policy Project.

Supreme Court rejects abortion groups’ attack on Texas Catholic bishops

by Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Washington, D.C. - February 26, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by abortion groups to pry into Texas Catholic bishops’ private discussions about religious doctrine. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, several abortion advocates targeted and subpoenaed Texas’ Catholic bishops to demand their internal deliberations regarding abortion. Last year, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected the surveillance attempt as intimidation and an invasion of the church’s right to privacy. Today’s Supreme Court ruling finally puts an end to the abortion group’s intrusion efforts.

In 2016, Whole Woman’s Health, a Texas-based abortion facility chain, sued over a state law that would require hospitals and abortion facilities to dispose of aborted human remains by burial or cremation, rather than in a landfill or the sewer, as is currently allowed. Because of the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance, the Texas Catholic Church’s leadership––the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops––acted according to its faith and offered to provide burials to all unborn children who were aborted. Although the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops was not part of that lawsuit, last year the abortion groups retaliated against the bishops by subpoenaing decades of internal religious deliberations among the bishops regarding abortion.

“Thank goodness the Supreme Court saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs.”

Last June, a trial judge ordered the bishops to hand over their internal communications about abortion to Whole Woman’s Health—even though they had already provided 4,000 pages of external communications. The bishops appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted them permanent protection from the order. The court ruled that the bishops’ claims “go to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.” Whole Woman’s Health asked the full Fifth Circuit to rehear the case. The full court rejected their request. They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which today also rejected the group’s bid.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is also represented by Steven Levatino and Andrew McRae of Levatino | Pace PLLC in Austin, Texas.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bipartisan LEGION Act introduced in the Senate

By The American Legion

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- A bill expanding membership eligibility for the American Legion was filed last week in the Senate. The Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act — also known as the LEGION Act — is a bipartisan effort introduced by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Because the American Legion’s membership periods are congressionally chartered, the organization is prevented from expanding membership eligibility without an act of Congress. The act expands membership eligibility to honorably discharged veterans who have served in unrecognized times of war since World War II.

“Nearly 1,600 brave American men and women were killed or wounded since World War II, while defending our nation during times not officially recognized as periods of war by the U.S. government,” American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad said. “These veterans are unable to receive some of the benefits and recognition available to their counterparts who served during official wartime periods.

“Because The American Legion is congressionally chartered, we are unable to welcome many of these veterans as members of the nation’s largest veterans organization. It is fitting that during the 100th anniversary of the founding of The American Legion, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis are introducing the LEGION Act, bipartisan legislation that will recognize all veterans who served honorably since the start of World War II, while also fostering growth within the veteran community. Moreover, we salute Sen. Sinema for making this the first bill that she has introduced as a newly elected U.S. senator. We hope that the American people will encourage all members of Congress to support the LEGION Act. It is an appropriate ‘thank you’ to those who served.”

“The American Legion provides critical resources to our veterans, but currently, only veterans who served during formally recognized conflicts can belong to the Legion,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “That restriction leaves out thousands of former American servicemembers who signed up to defend our country. Our legislation rights this wrong and ensures veterans have the opportunity to join the American Legion.”

VA issues proposed rule for new community care program

by American Hospital Association

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed the criteria for determining when covered veterans may elect to receive necessary hospital, medical and extended care services from non-VA entities or providers under the Veterans Community Care Program. The AHA-supported MISSION Act of 2018 requires the agency to consolidate its existing community care programs into this new program by June.

Under the proposed rule, covered veterans would have to be enrolled in the VA health care system and meet at least one of six conditions: VA does not offer the required care or services; VA does not operate a full-service medical facility in the state in which the veteran resides; the veteran was eligible to receive care under the Veterans Choice Program and is eligible to receive care under certain grandfathering provisions; VA is not able to furnish care or services to a veteran in a manner that complies with VA’s designated access standards; the veteran and the referring clinician determine it is in the best medical interest of the veteran to receive care or services from an eligible entity or provider based on consideration of certain criteria VA proposes to establish; or the veteran is seeking care or services from a VA medical service line that VA has determined is not providing care that complies with VA’s standards of quality.

The proposed rule also designates access standards for the new program, as announced last month; describes non-VA entities and providers eligible to participate in the program; and clarifies payment rates and methodologies for those community providers to include rates for critical access hospitals and other types of providers. According to the agency, providers eligible to participate in the new program would be “substantively identical” to those permitted to participate under the VA’s current Veterans Choice or other community care programs.

The proposed rule will be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register with comments accepted for 30 days. VA last month issued a separate proposed rule implementing urgent care provisions for the new program.

AFT Supports Legislation to Make Workplaces for Healthcare, Social Service Employees Safer

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By American Federation of Teachers

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), would make nurses and healthcare workers safer in their workplaces. The bill requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop protection measures and enforceable safety standards for people who work in front-line healthcare jobs, who are five times more likely to be assaulted at work than the rest of the labor force.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 80 percent of emergency medical workers experience violence during their careers, some reporting verbal assault and some reporting physical abuse. And the rates are rising. Between 2007 and 2017, rates of violence in hospitals grew by 123 percent.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “Our nurses and health industry workers care every day for the sick, the elderly and the mentally ill, yet they often feel unsafe or unprotected themselves from the assaults that occur in hospitals and other healthcare-related settings.”

“While OSHA has left these workers vulnerable,” she said, “incidents of workplace violence continue to rise, with 69 percent of reported cases occurring in healthcare settings. Thankfully, this bill addresses this increasing trend head-on, and it provides long-needed protections and specific and enforceable safety standards for people who work in front-line healthcare jobs.”

Weingarten concluded, “No one should face violence, intimidation or fear for their safety while they’re on the job. And as a union of healthcare professionals, educators and public employees, we welcome this effort to finally make federal workplace-safety regulations a priority.”

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

‘The Administration is Setting Us Up to Fail,’ says VA Workers Union

by American Federation for Government Employees

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Friday, February 15, the Department of Veterans Affairs quietly posted that the agency now has 48,985 unfilled vacancies – up nearly 4,000 since the VA started posting vacancy totals in August 2018. The muted rollout of the data – which is only tracked and posted because of a push for transparency from the American Federation of Government Employees – follows Secretary Robert Wilkie’s recent announcement that the Department is outsourcing care and funding from the already short-staffed and underfunded agency.

“It is unconscionable that Secretary Wilkie is starving the VA by leaving almost 49,000 positions unfilled– 42,790 of which are at the Veterans Health Administration,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “As the Secretary recently said, the ‘VA is seeing more patients than ever before, more quickly than ever before, and Veterans are more satisfied with their care than they have been previously’ – which comes as the VHA has jumped from having 35,000 unfilled vacancies in October 2017 to nearly 43,000 today.”

Cox added, “With the outstanding work being done by VA medical centers across the country, why would anybody try to undermine them with short staffing or shifting funding to the private sector?”

Last month the VA announced new criteria for privatized care that will be simultaneously slower and inferior to the integrated and specialized care offered by the VA. Understaffing the VA is a slow-motion replacement of VA’s in-house care with private care that is demonstrably unable to deal with veterans’ unique needs. Workers, medical experts, and members of Congress raised concerns that the VA’s in-house funding and staffing challenges will be worsened by funneling more money into the private, for-profit sector, and questioned the lack of transparency around the development and implementation of expanding private care for veterans.

“This push for further privatization should not occur, and the MISSION Act should not be implemented under the current schedule unless and until the VA does a thorough analysis of the impact of privatization on the quality and cost of care,” said AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma Lee. Lee, who represents 250,000 workers at the VA, says there are alternative approaches that will improve care – namely increased funding and a commitment to achieving full-staffing inside the VA.

“While the administration is setting us up to fail so they can dismantle veterans’ preferred health care provider, there are thankfully allies in Congress who are working to ensure we can hire and retain the medical professionals we so desperately need,” said Lee.

In early February, Rep. Mark Takano of California, introduced H.R. 1133 – VA Employee Fairness Act – to restore equal workplace rights to VA Title 38 health care professionals. H.R. 1133 already has 27 co-sponsors, and in mid-February was introduced as companion legislation in the Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

“Veterans are provided the best quality and timely care when the VA workforce can thrive,” said Rep. Takano. “With more than 40,000 employee vacancies in the VHA alone, it is crucial to ensure that doctors, nurses, and other medical professional are equipped with the best tools to retain and recruit the best talent to serve veterans — this bill will help make that possible.”

“The nurses, physicians, and health care workers at our nation’s VA medical centers, many of whom are veterans themselves, are the best at what they do. When they are able to collectively bargain and have their voices heard in the workplace, care improves for veterans. At a time when Americans are working harder and earning less for the time they put in, we should be making it easier for all workers to advocate for better working conditions, which leads to better veteran services and care,” said Sen. Brown.

“Thank you to Rep. Mark Takano and Sen. Sherrod Brown for once again standing with the women and men who care for our nation’s veterans,” said Cox. “Without the ability to advocate for other health care employees working under stressful conditions, or the ability to advocate for better patient care, the VA is going to struggle to attract and retain the best and brightest in the medical field and veterans will be at greater risk. It’s essential that Congress pass the VA Employee Fairness Act as soon as possible, so we can stop losing the professionals we have and hire the workers we need to continue serving those who have borne the battle.”

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Tell Senators to pass Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

American Family Association

Next Monday night, February 25, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to protect the lives of infants who survive an abortion. Every member of the Senate ought to agree that all babies who are born deserve protection.

Contact your Senators urging them to vote to ban the killing of infants who survive abortion.

Senate Republican leadership must rally the entire Senate to unify in support of this bill. Passing this bill will not only protect the lives of babies who survive an abortion, but the vote will also let voters know which Democrats and Republicans refuse to protect innocent life.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is to be commended for bringing this bill up for a vote. It is troubling to know that he, however, scheduled the vote for Monday night.

Senators typically travel to D.C. on Monday for the week, and they record their attendance that evening by what is known as a "bed check" vote. Bills considered after check-in are typically viewed as low-priority votes—renaming a post office, for example.

If the vote had been delayed till next Thursday, Senate leadership, including Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD), would have had the opportunity to whip the votes during the week to build support for the bill. A Monday night vote weakens the ability of Senate leadership to leverage their majority position.

To protect babies born alive, Christians and constitutional conservatives should expect the same or greater legislative prowess that Sen. McConnell demonstrated when he fought to pass the Middle East security bill (S.1) in January.

Sen. McConnell brought this bill up for a floor vote three times (1, 2, 3) even though it kept failing to break the 60 vote threshold to proceed to a vote. McConnell kept bringing it to the floor until it passed. He and other Senate leadership kept putting the full weight of their majority position behind this bill till it passed. Surely newborn lives are worth just as much effort!

This same bill, the Born-Alive Protection Act, passed the House in September 2015, but a Senate Republican majority allowed the bill to die. Senate Republican leadership, namely Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is responsible despite the overwhelming number of Republican senators who would have voted for the bill.

Another concerning fact is that Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House for two years following the 2016 election yet they failed to make this a top priority. Instead, some Senate Republicans hid behind the 60 vote rule and refused to switch to a simple majority (51) vote to pass this important legislation.

This brings into question how committed these lawmakers are to the pro-life movement?

Nonetheless, it is important that all Senators go on the record regarding this important issue.

Contact your Senators urging them to vote to ban the killing of infants who survive abortion.

AMA Against Rule that Bans Federal Funding for Abortions

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by Barbara L. McAneny, M.D.
President, American Medical Association

“This rule interferes with and imposes restrictions on the patient-physician relationship. For all intents and purposes, it imposes a gag rule on what information physicians can provide to their patients. The patient-physician relationship relies on trust, open conversation and informed decision making and the government should not be telling physicians what they can and cannot say to their patients.

“Protecting the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship and defending the freedom of communication between patients and their physicians is a fundamental priority for the AMA. With this action, the administration wants to block physicians from counseling patients about all of their healthcare options and from providing appropriate referrals for care. This is a clear violation of patients’ rights in the Code of Medical Ethics.

“The AMA also strongly objects to the administration’s plan to withhold federal family planning funding from entities that provide critical medical services to vulnerable populations. Millions of women depend on the Title X program for access to much-needed healthcare including cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, and other exams. This is the wrong prescription and threatens to compound a health equity deficit in this nation. Women should have access to these medical services regardless of where they live, how much money they make, their background, or whether they have health insurance.

“Title X is popular, successful, and has had bipartisan support for decades. Our country is at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy and an historic low for pregnancy among teenagers — largely because of expanded access to birth control. We should not be walking back from that progress.”

Banks Doing Well in Thriving Economy, Says ABA

By James Chessen, ABA’s chief economist

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- “The latest FDIC data show that America’s banks are healthy, well capitalized and making the loans that help Main Street businesses succeed. With tax reform helping to spur business expansion, banks stepped up to meet increased loan demand from businesses of all sizes. Business lending picked up 7.8 percent over the year, and total bank lending saw the biggest quarter-over-quarter increase since 2015. Bank lending grew a healthy 4.4 percent to over $10 trillion in total loans, an increase of $431 billion in 2018. Depositors benefited from increased competition for funds as banks looked to attract more deposits to supply loan demand.

“As always, banks are keeping a watchful eye on the state of the economy and are well positioned to manage any changes that affect the business landscape, including additional interest rate moves by the Fed. Banks continue to maintain credit discipline, and are building up reserves for potential loan losses as they look ahead to the twilight of this economic cycle. This is on top of a record $2 trillion in capital that provides a strong foundation for financial security and economic growth.

“The FDIC’s renewed focus on supporting de novo banks is encouraging as new institutions show the promise of a brighter future for communities and the industry. With a solid foundation of capital and high-quality assets, banks remain well positioned to support continued economic growth in 2019 and beyond.”

The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $17.9 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard nearly $14 trillion in deposits and extend more than $10 trillion in loans.


by American Association for Justice

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The following is a statement from American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen on the announcement from Google promising to end mandatory forced arbitration for all full-time employees:

“AAJ applauds the courageous group of women from Google who organized the walkout to call national attention to sexual harassment and the common workplace policy of forced arbitration that silences survivors and allows corporations to escape accountability.

As we celebrate this good news for Google employees, we call on Congress to take action to end forced arbitration for all Americans. We commend Senators Richard Blumenthal and Patty Murray and Representatives Hank Johnson, Jerry Nadler and Bobby Scott for leading on this issue, as well as Senator Lindsey Graham, who last year publicly challenged companies to end forced arbitration as a matter of good business practice.

Some corporations, like Microsoft and now Google have taken action, realizing forced arbitration was bad policy. Until the law is changed, forced arbitration remains the prevailing practice for most corporations, leaving millions of Americans unable to enforce their constitutional right to seek justice and accountability from the corporations who hurt them. Forced arbitration means that corporations can get away with breaking the law and never be held responsible. That’s why Congress needs to step up and pass comprehensive legislation to ensure all Americans, not just employees at Google, can enforce their rights.”

The American Association for Justice works to preserve the constitutional right to trial by jury and to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations.

HHS issues final rule on life-affirming health funding reforms

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by Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington, D.C. - February 23, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Denise Burke regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ issuance Friday of the final version of the Protect Life Rule and its reforms of the Title X funding program:

“The tax dollars of Americans should never be used to fund abortion, shield child abusers, or force medical professionals to violate their convictions by participating in the end of human life. We commend the Trump administration and HHS for these commonsense reforms, which simply ensure greater compliance with current federal and state laws, safeguard vulnerable and abused women and children, and help protect freedom of conscience for health care workers. The Protect Life Rule, which the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld, will prevent organizations like the nation’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, from funding their abortion activities through the Title X program. Planned Parenthood has covered up the sexual abuse of young girls and has been investigated for waste, abuse, and potential fraud. Because of these failures, it doesn’t deserve taxpayer dollars. This rule is a welcome step toward greater government program integrity and the protection of every human life, no matter how vulnerable.”

ADF submitted official comments to HHS in support of the Protect Life Rule in July of last year.

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Bonamici Meets with Local Domestic Violence Agency, Calls for Update to Violence Against Women Act

Astoria, OR - February 22, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR, 1st) met with advocates for survivors of domestic violence and called for Congress to update and expand the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which lapsed on Friday, Feb. 15.

The landmark legislation that funded domestic violence agencies across the country since 1994 expired in September of 2018, but a short-term reauthorization carried it through until February 15. Congress has funded VAWA programs for this year, but a reauthorization of the program is needed.

“Domestic violence survivors and the agencies that support them should be able to rely on the federal support they need. I am eager to work with my colleagues to update and expand this law so agencies like The Harbor in Clatsop County can continue their work to prevent violence and support survivors. I am committed to making sure that VAWA is reauthorized and expanded to provide stronger protections for all survivors, including LGBTQ and Native women.”

“The Harbor relies on federal funding to help us provide services to hundreds of survivors and their kids every year, including housing, transportation, legal support, and mental health care,” said Hilary Levine, Director of Services at The Harbor. “Without the Violence Against Women Act, many agencies like ours would be in trouble. Especially in rural counties where there are few options, survivors need to know these services will always be available, no matter what.”

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Reed, Whitehouse Reintroduce Public Health Care Option

Washington, D.C. - February 17, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have reintroduced the State Public Option Act, bicameral legislation to create a Medicaid-based public health care option to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by providing Americans with a new high-quality, low-cost choice when purchasing health insurance.

“I want Rhode Islanders to have affordable choices when it comes to health care and prescription drugs,” said Senator Reed. “The State Public Option Act is a prescription for just that. It can help keep health insurers honest about what they charge and deliver cost-effective care to Rhode Islanders.”

“I’ve been a vocal advocate for creating a public health insurance option since I was elected to the Senate, and I will continue to do so until every single Rhode Islander has access to high quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Whitehouse, who co-authored public option legislation during the drafting of the ACA and introduced a similar bill last Congress. “Increased competition driven by a publicly run insurance option will result in better, cheaper insurance for everyone in the marketplace.”

The State Public Option Act, led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), will allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program for all their residents regardless of income, giving everyone the option to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan. At least 14 states are exploring implementing a Medicaid public option within their legislatures.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found broad, bipartisan support for a Medicaid public option. Medicaid is a popular and cost-effective program with a large provider network. The program has the same positive ratings as private insurance, but provides health coverage at a much lower cost. Based on partnerships between state and federal governments, Medicaid also gives states the flexibility to adapt services and models of care based on their individual needs.

Even with the progress of the ACA, nearly 30 million people remain uninsured, including 4.6 percent of Rhode Islanders in 2017. This legislation will help workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage but may make too much to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. The bill will also help consumers who live in other places across the country that have only one insurance carrier.

The legislation has sixty-one cosponsors in the Senate and House.

President’s National Emergency Announcement

Washington, D.C. - February 17, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the following statement following President Trump’s announcement:

“President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest. I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our homeland security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations.”

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Schatz Statement On National Emergency Declaration

Tillis Statement on President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration


Klobuchar, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Crack Down on Fraud Targeted at Seniors

This is all well and good. However, this type of fraud is not just directed at Seniors. It is directed at those who have little experience dealing with these types of offers. We all get the same telemarketing phone calls.

Washington, D.C. - February 17, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that they have reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to crack down on fraud targeted at seniors. Schemes targeting seniors include fraudulent investment plans, prizes, sweepstakes, internet fraud, charity scams, predatory home lenders, telemarketing and mail fraud, and Ponzi schemes. The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would help fight scams designed to strip seniors of their assets by helping educate seniors about fraud schemes and improve monitoring and response to fraud complaints.

“We must ensure all Americans have safety and dignity in their senior years,” said Klobuchar. “New fraudulent schemes designed to target seniors appear almost daily, and seniors can watch their entire life savings disappear in scams that are designed to target their assets. This bipartisan legislation will improve efforts to combat fraud targeting seniors so we can make fighting scams against our seniors a priority.”

“As the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, combatting elder fraud has long been one of my top priorities. Though we have held hearings exposing and examining a number of these scams in order to help protect seniors, much more remains to be done,” said Collins. “The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would help enhance fraud monitoring, increase consumer education, and strengthen the complaint tracking system to help prevent seniors from being robbed of their hard-earned savings through threatening and manipulative scams.”

The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would help protect seniors from fraud schemes by strengthening the reporting system to ensure complaints of fraud are handled quickly by the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The bill would also require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency responsible for handling consumer complaints, coordinate with other agencies to monitor the market for fraud schemes targeting seniors. In addition, the bill would require the FTC to distribute information to seniors, their families, and their caregivers that explain how to recognize fraud schemes and how to contact law enforcement authorities in the event that a senior is targeted. Klobuchar and Collins have introduced this bill in the three previous Congresses. In 2016, the legislation passed the Senate Commerce Committee without opposition and in 2017, the legislation passed the Senate.

Collins, King-Backed Bill Will Encourage Employers to Help Pay Off Student Loan Debt - i am MOTIVATION. i am A1.

Washington, D.C. - February 17, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) this week cosponsored bipartisan legislation to help Americans tackle their student loan debt. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to their employees’ student loans – providing employees with much-needed relief and employers with a unique tool to attract and retain talented employees.

“Young people seeking higher education should be able to follow their dreams after graduation, but today the vast majority are shouldered with excessive and seemingly insurmountable debt. A diploma should not be a certificate of anxiety, but one of hope for the future,” Senator King said. “That’s why we must look for innovative new ways to ease the burden of student loans and help the next generation join the workforce and succeed. This bipartisan legislation will support American students and help employers recruit and retain driven young people – a win-win.”

“Education plays a vital role in opening the doors of opportunity to all Americans, but the rising cost of a college education threatens to close those doors to many families across the country,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would help alleviate the financial strain of student loans by encouraging more employers to provide student loan repayment benefits to their employees.”

According to reports, one in four Americans have student loans, and student debt in the U.S. reached $1.5 trillion in 2018. Student debt is a significant financial burden that influences the way the American workforce saves and spends, and thus stifles the entire economy. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would update an existing federal program so that it works better for employees living with the reality of burdensome student loan debt. The Employer Education Assistance Program currently only provides assistance for workers who are seeking additional education. It does not extend to individuals who have already incurred student loan debt during their undergraduate or graduate studies.

In addition to Senators Collins and King, the Employer Participation in Repayment Act is supported by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Thune (R-S.D.) Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ari.).

The legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Scott Peters and (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) and has support from numerous educational organizations.

Full text of the legislation can be found HERE. A summary of the legislation can be found HERE.


Atlanta, GA - February 17, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., announced they will introduce a stand-alone disaster relief package to provide critical funding for Georgia and other states recovering from recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Michael.

“The biggest immediate crisis facing Georgia today is the relief money needed for the lost agricultural products from the hurricanes that have hit here and in other states,” said Isakson. “We are in crisis mode for our farmers and agricultural community, and we will not stop until we get needed aid for those who have suffered devastation. Additional losses grow every day we wait, and it’s far past time we fulfill the promises that were made. Supplemental disaster funding was overwhelmingly supported in funding proposals voted on earlier this year, so there shouldn’t be a reason for further delay on a supplemental disaster relief package to provide critical aid for Georgians.”

“Enough is enough. Georgia and other states across the country are hurting from historic hurricanes and devastating wildfires, and the federal government continues to drag its feet,” said Perdue, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “In October, President Trump and Vice President Pence both saw the devastation firsthand and promised to help Georgia and other states rebuild. It’s long past time to make good on these promises. For farmers in Georgia, it’s not a matter of putting a crop in the ground this year – it’s a matter of putting a crop in the ground ever again. I will continue to fight for disaster relief until our farmers and rural communities have the resources they need to recover.”

The senators plan to introduce a supplemental funding package after the Senate reconvenes on Feb. 25 that includes $3 billion to provide critical agriculture disaster relief for farmers recovering in the wake of Hurricane Michael, along with additional funds for communities in Georgia and other states. Senators Perdue and Isakson have vowed to continue raising this issue in the Senate until Congress approves disaster funding.

See also...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

States deserve a seat at the table when listing species as endangered

Washington, D.C. - February 14, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- If a federal agency is going to list a species as endangered, they are supposed to utilize the best scientific and commercial data available. But Congressional hearings have revealed numerous examples of agencies failing to follow these rules.

To address this problem, U.S. Senators Senator Michael B. Enzi - (R - WY), Senator James E. Risch (R - ID), and Senator Pat Roberts (R - KS), introduced legislation that would require the federal government to disclose the data it uses for Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings. It would also ensure that ESA decisions are more reliant on the input of state, local and tribal studies.

“When an animal is categorized as an endangered species, it is the states and local communities that are most impacted, but currently they can’t verify, dispute or complement the information federal agencies use,” Enzi said. “This legislation would ensure that state, local and tribal entities would have a seat at the table when federal agencies are proposing regulations that could have significant ramifications. Wyoming has some of the richest wildlife habitat in the world, and that is why we should encourage an open process that relies on the best data available.”

“We need to put states and local communities back in the driver’s seat when it comes to the wildlife conservation and management efforts that so greatly affect them,” Risch said. “By incorporating on the ground information and decision-makers, this legislation makes important strides in that effort.”

“Like we saw when the Obama Administration listed the lesser prairie chicken, many local factors related to the health of the species were either ignored or disregarded,” Roberts said. “This bill will ensure the federal government is transparent in its determinations and also that it considers information from state and local sources.”

The State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act is designed to ensure the federal government adheres to its legal responsibilities to cooperate with states under the Endangered Species Act and that the best available scientific data is used in listing decisions.


Washington, D.C. - February 14, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Senator Tammy Ducksworth (D - IL) issued the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a proposal that would roll back the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Duckworth is the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.

“This decision by the Trump Administration threatens access to clean, safe drinking water for millions of Americans, especially low income families and communities of color who are facing drinking water challenges associated with pollution, affordability and extreme weather. For more than 45 years, our nation has counted on the Clean Water Act to move us towards a future where all of our waters are clean enough to drink and enjoy recreationally. This move puts that future in jeopardy, and makes it easier for corporate polluters to contaminate our streams and waterways. As Ranking Member on the Subcommittee with oversight of these issues, I’ll continue working with my colleagues to protect every American’s right to clean, safe drinking water.”

Read also:

EPA WOTUS Rule will Crush Property Rights and Cost Millions

Sen. Cruz: It Is Only Right El Chapo's Ill-Gotten Gains Go to Securing the Border and Stopping the Next Narco Traffickers

Washington, D.C. - February 14, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations appeared on ‘Fox News @ Night’ with Shannon Bream where he discussed his EL CHAPO Act and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

When asked about the El CHAPO Act, Sen. Cruz described the bill as just, saying, “It is only right that those ill-gotten gains go to fixing the problems and stopping the next Narco traffickers.”

“We need to vote on it,” Sen. Cruz said. “A number of months ago when we were starting to really vigorously debate the border wall and Democrats were going on and on saying that it was too expensive, that they didn't want to spend money on it. […] I happened to be reading at the time that the estimates to build a robust wall at the time were between 14 and $20 billion. At the same time, I read that the Department of Justice estimates of the global worth of El Chapo's criminal network worldwide were roughly $14 billion. There is a natural and elegant symmetry that suggested itself. So I filed the EL CHAPO Act, which says all money criminally forfeited from El Chapo and from any other drug lord shall be used for border security and to build the wall. And that means we can do this without spending even a penny of taxpayer money, but not only that: there is a justice to it. Those billions that El Chapo has were made trafficking illegally across the U.S. border, bringing narcotics across the border. And it is only right that those ill-gotten gains go to fixing the problems and stopping the next Narco traffickers.”

Bream also asked about the United States’ response to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

“Nicolas Maduro, and Hugo Chavez before him, are enemies of America,” Sen. Cruz said. “They oppress their people. Maduro is illegitimate. He is seizing power - you want to talk about a coup? Maduro is using military force to stay in office and he is not the legitimately elected leader of Venezuela. Juan Guaidó is instead. And so the president is quite right, as have most of the nations in the community of civilized nations have recognized Juan Guaidó as the legitimately elected leader of Venezuela. And the leftists in the Democratic party need to stop siding with the communists against the United States of America. That's not good for our country.”

Sen. Cruz continued, noting every military leader in Venezuela has a choice to make: cling to a dictator and oppressor as he falls, or stand with the nation, constitution, and people of Venezuela.

“The rule of law matters,” Sen. Cruz said. “Right now, do you know how many generals there are in Venezuela? There are over 3,000 generals. It's an incredible - they are largely disparate and right now the big question is where are the generals going to line up? And what I’ve publicly called on the generals to do is say look, you are facing a choice: do you stand with Maduro? The tyrant who is on his way out, who is losing power? Or do you stand with the people of Venezuela? Do you stand with the constitution? Do you stand with the legitimately elected leadership? One of the things that President Guaidó’s government has promised to do is to hold free and fair elections so let the people of Venezuela have a choice. But the choice shouldn't be a leftist communist strongman who is murdering the people, who is torturing the people, who is oppressing the people. And by the way, for all those Democrats who are big fans of socialism, well, you can see where the Green New Deal ends up. It ends up in Venezuela - once one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, and now people literally starving in the streets.”

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Washington, D.C. - February 14, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Idaho Senator Mike Crapo this afternoon voted to support a measure that will keep the government open while also funding projects to secure our border. Following the vote, Crapo issued this comment:

“I supported today’s measure because it takes a step toward making our communities safer. Bicameral, bipartisan appropriators diligently advanced a compromise proposal that addresses urgent priorities in the seven outstanding appropriations packages. For homeland security, this agreement provides more than $1.3 billion for physical security barriers along portions of our border that have been designated as the highest priority by our Border Patrol. Additionally, it provides an unprecedented $22.5 billion for overall border security initiatives that includes law enforcement personnel and drug trafficking prevention. Locally, this bill will also fund the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which provides funding to Idaho’s counties to make up for lost revenues from federal ownership of lands.

“The President has also indicated he intends to declare a national emergency to use specific powers to secure our border. We need additional physical barriers securing our border. In the coming days, I will work closely with my Senate colleagues and with the White House to learn the details of the President’s intentions and how they will be implemented.”

The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives.

See also:

Durbin Statement On Bipartisan Agreement To Fund The Government

Feinstein Statement on Government Funding Bill

Fischer Statement on Bipartisan Border Security Agreement

Senator Hassan Statement on Border Security and Government Funding Agreement

Heinrich Votes To Keep Government Open, Decries Trump Abuse Of Power On Declaring National Emergency



Cotton, Jones Introduce Bill to Allow Homeschool Participation in JROTC

Washington, D.C. - February 14, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) today introduced legislation clarifying that all Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programs are required to accept homeschool students who reside in their jurisdiction. JROTC is a voluntary program for high school students run by the military and designed to teach citizenship and leadership. Its mission is "to instill in students in United States secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment." Current law does not specify whether JROTC is open to homeschool students, resulting in a patchwork of polices between programs that denies some students the opportunity to participate in JROTC.

"JROTC is a valuable program that provides high school age students with discipline, confidence, and skills they will carry with them throughout their lives. We should be looking for ways to make these programs more inclusive, not keeping kids out. This bill will make clear that the benefits of JROTC are available to all students who want them, including those pursuing their education at home," said Cotton.

"For more than a century, JROTC programs have provided excellent opportunities for young folks to develop leadership skills, responsibility, and character and to learn the value of service to our country. Unfortunately, it's not clear whether students who are educated at home are allowed to participate. With an estimated 1.5 million American children in home-schooling today, including more than 20,000 in Alabama, we should be taking steps to make certain these young men and women can participate in this important program. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill that will ensure that any eligible student could take part in JROTC," said Jones.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) Background:

  • JROTC programs exist in all 50 states and American schools overseas (including Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands).
  • has an estimated enrollment of over 500,000 students.
  • is not a military recruiting program, and students in the program have no obligation to serve in the military.
  • programs include leadership training and classroom instruction emphasizing service history and traditions.

  • Friday, February 8, 2019

    Wasserman-Schultz Leads Bi-Partisan Push to Monitor Russian Influence in Venezuela

    Washington, D.C. - February 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and a bi-partisan coalition of South Florida lawmakers have filed legislation that would require the United States Department of State to step up monitoring and provide Congress with threat assessments and strategies to curb Russian military influence in Venezuela.

    “The growing military relationship between Nicolas Maduro and Vladimir Putin will severely obstruct any effort to restore real democracy in Venezuela,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz said. “This kind of military alliance poses an imminent threat to our allies in the region, namely Colombia, and will only strengthen the foothold of Maduro’s brutal regime.”

    The Russian-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act was also co-sponsored by Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, (FL-25), Donna Shalala (FL-27), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26). It would require the State Department to quickly supply Congress with threat assessments and strategies to deal with Russian-Venezuelan cooperation. It also requires an assessment of risks posed by any Kremlin acquisition of CITGO’s United States energy infrastructure holdings.

    Russian and Venezuelan military entanglements have increased in recent years. Joint forces took part in a 10-hour exercise across the Caribbean in December, which included Tu–160 nuclear-capable bombers. Kremlin-linked military contractors have reportedly been deployed there recently. The Maduro regime has also turned to the Russian Federation, one of its strongest political allies, for financial support during its current economic crisis.

    Maduro’s regime has come under intense international pressure as the humanitarian, economic and political crisis worsens there. Growing food and medicine shortages, along with political crackdowns, have set off intense protests. It has also triggered wide-spread international recognition of National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the nation’s interim president.

    “We must not allow Russia to provide Maduro with the defense and military resources that he will use to further repress and brutalize the Venezuelan people, or engage in anti-American activities at our doorstep. Russia’s actions in Venezuela threaten our national security and bolster the Venezuelan people’s oppressors,” Rep. Diaz-Balart said. “I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation that will require greater oversight and attention to the deepening partnership between Putin and the Maduro regime.”

    “The United States, the European Union, Venezuela’s own neighbors, and most importantly, the people of Venezuela are clear: we stand united with Interim President Guaidó and his legitimate government as they lead Venezuela towards democracy with new free and fair elections,” Rep. Shalala said. “The South Florida delegation has come together to introduce bills that grant TPS status to Venezuelans, ban arms exports, and authorize humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. I am proud that we have come together once more to take a stand for freedom and democracy with the introduction of this bipartisan legislation responding to the increasingly troublesome defense relationship between the Maduro regime and Russia.”

    “The Venezuelan people cannot restore stability and democracy to their country without humanitarian aid, but neither can they restore them with the specter of Russian forces looming behind them, propping up Maduro’s illegitimate regime,” Rep. Mucarsel-Powell said. “That is why I think this bill is such a crucial part of the effort our delegation is making to address the many facets of aid the Venezuelan people need to rebuild their democracy.

    Torres, Engel Introduce Bill to Block Trump Administration Proposal to Deregulate Firearm Exports

    Washington, D.C. - February 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the Prevent Crime and Terrorism Act to block the Trump Administration’s proposal to transfer firearm export regulation from the U.S. State Department to the U.S. Commerce Department. Experts have noted that the new regulations would weaken congressional oversight of firearms exports, and would allow licenses to be approved with less scrutiny. The legislation has been endorsed by Giffords, Amnesty International USA, Global Exchange, and the Violence Policy Center.

    “We should be doing everything we can to make sure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands,” said Torres. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration is doing just the opposite—making it easier for terrorists, drug cartels, and dictators to buy deadly weapons. If this dangerous proposal goes forward, we are going to see more instability in strategically important regions such as Central America. I’m proud to work with Chairman Engel to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

    “The Trump Administration’s proposal means it will be easier to export grenade launchers, flame throwers, and undetectable plastic guns overseas with almost no oversight or accountability,” said Chairman Engel. “We need proper congressional oversight, so we can step in and make sure these weapons aren’t sent to bad actors, including terrorists, drug cartels, human rights abusers or violent criminals. I commend Rep. Torres for her continuing leadership on this issue, and I look forward to working with her as the Foreign Affairs Committee examines this matter in the weeks and months ahead.”

    The Prevent Crime and Terrorism Act would prohibit the President from removing any items from the United States Munitions List, ensuring continued State Department oversight.

    Torres and Engel were joined in introducing the bill by original co-sponsors Representatives David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Robin L. Kelly (D-IL), Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA), and Jim McGovern (D-MA).


    Washington, D.C. - February 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Representative Dina Titus (D-NV, 1st) joined with Representative Pete King (R-NY, 2nd) to introduce H.R. 1042, the Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act.

    The bipartisan legislation, formerly titled the Animal Emergency Planning Act, would require entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act, such as zoos, commercial animal dealers, and research facilities to have contingency plans in place to safely evacuate and care for animals in an emergency or disaster situation.

    “The lives of animals are too precious to leave to chance,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). “This bipartisan bill will ensure that zoos, commercial breeders, research facilities, and the like are prepared to keep their animals safe when disaster strikes. Sadly, we’ve learned that if these entities do not have a plan in place when an emergency hits, it is already too late. I’m grateful for the support of Representative King and the many animal advocacy organizations that are helping advance this important legislation.”

    “For those who are responsible for the care and wellbeing of animals it is imperative that they have an emergency plan in place when a disaster strikes,” said Representative Pete King (NY-2). “I am proud to work with Rep. Titus on this legislation to ensure the safety of animals with a completely reasonable and simple plan.”

    “The ASPCA has witnessed firsthand how a lack of preparation for disasters can lead to dire consequences for animals left behind,” said American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Senior Vice President of Government Relations Nancy Perry. “Those who hold a license under the Animal Welfare Act bear a special responsibility to plan ahead for hurricanes, fires, floods, or other disasters that may strike. We thank Representatives Titus and King for their efforts to address the needs of animals in the event of an emergency.”

    “Labs, zoos and other USDA-regulated facilities have an obligation to protect animals in captivity from devastating natural and man-made disasters,” said Animal Welfare Institute President Cathy Liss. “These animals are at the mercy of their handlers because they have no way to escape. The PREPARED Act would ensure that no USDA-regulated facility is ever caught unprepared in a crisis — and that no animal gets left behind.”

    “Disasters don't discriminate, and they threaten people and animals,” said Animal Wellness Foundation Director of Federal Affairs Holly Gann. “It's just common sense, and common decency, that commercial operations – such as commercial dog breeders and animal circuses – should have plans in place to ensure the safety of the animals in their care.”

    “When disasters strike, preparation is crucial to effective response,” said Association of Zoos and Aquariums President and CEO Dan Ashe. “AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are leaders in disaster preparedness, and our 233 member facilities applaud Congresswoman Titus and her cosponsors for their leadership in introducing the PREPARED Act. It will provide needed and helpful focus in an era of changing climate and increasingly unpredictable and severe weather events.”

    "Animals are too often the innocent victims when emergencies and disasters strike,” said Best Friends Animal Society Legislative Attorney Lee Greenwood. “Making sure that plans are in place to protect them is not only a common-sense solution, but it will save lives and ensure that people are prepared to act when these incidents occur. We want to thank Congresswoman Titus and Congressman King for their continued support of animal-friendly legislation that is making our country a safer and more humane place for people and pets."

    “Having worked to reunite pets with their families post-Hurricane Katrina, I know the difficulties of providing care for thousands of animals after a significant disaster,” said Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson. “So, it only makes sense that commercial operations with animals under their care should have the responsibility to plan for emergencies as required by the PREPARED Act. We commend Representatives Dina Titus and Peter King for introducing the PREPARED Act. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, we urge Congress to swiftly adopt this common-sense reform to help improve disaster preparedness by animal dealers, laboratories, zoos, and other federally licensed facilities under the Animal Welfare Act.”


    Washington, D.C. - February 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO, 3rd) voted to advance bills to protect veterans from financial predators and increase access to child care for veterans receiving care at Veterans’ Affairs (VA) hospitals. Both bills, the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2019 (H.R. 450) and The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act (H.R. 840), passed the House with strong bipartisan votes.

    “It is absolutely disgusting that there are people out there who exploit veterans when they are most vulnerable,” said Tipton. “These crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and I am glad the House took steps to give the legal system the tools it needs to go after these criminals.”

    Financial predators have increasingly targeted vulnerable veterans, particularly the elderly, to defraud them of their VA benefits. Under current law, it is illegal for an unauthorized person to charge a veteran a fee for assistance in receiving their benefits, but there are no repercussions for individuals who deliberately violate the law. H.R. 450 would establish a new federal crime for individuals who violate the law, imposing a fine, imprisonment, or both.

    H.R. 840 makes permanent a pilot program that provides child care at VA hospitals to veterans who are receiving mental health or other intensive health care services and who also serve as the primary care taker of a child. The bill would require the VA to provide child care assistance to the veteran while they are receiving care either through a stipend, child care facilities at the VA, payment directly to a private child care agency, or a collaboration with a child care program at another federal department or agency.

    “Veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and it is important that Congress act to make this program permanent, so it will continue to have positive impacts in the lives of veterans and their families,” Tipton added.

    See Also:

    Walorski Votes to Expand Veterans’ Access to VA Child Care Services

    Congressman Don Young Supports Passage of Legislation Expanding Child Care Access for Veterans


    By Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Nebraska, 3rd)

    As most of us know by now, President Trump was the first candidate for president in 40 years not to release his tax returns prior to taking office. With full knowledge of this fact, the American people elected him president, and under federal law he is entitled to the same privacy and legal protections as any other American citizen. I therefore do not support the unilateral disclosure of the president’s tax returns by Congress or any of its members, though I would have preferred he voluntarily release them to avoid our current situation.

    Democrats have promised since President Trump was first elected that, if given the opportunity, they would request his tax returns from the IRS and release them publicly. Now in the majority, my Democrat colleagues can legally attempt to do this with a majority vote in the House, though such a move would set a dangerous and inappropriate precedent.

    I take this issue very seriously not only because I would have to vote on any action before the House of Representatives to disclose the president’s tax returns, but also because the House Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, has jurisdiction over the IRS. Any request for private tax returns must originate in one of the tax committees: Senate Finance, House Ways and Means, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    In the past, Congress has requested tax returns from the IRS on a limited basis to inform policymaking. When the IRS was discovered to have engaged in targeting of conservative non-profit groups, congressional investigators requested the returns of all known affected parties but not of specific individuals. The law is specific on public disclosure of tax returns or information about them by Congress or the executive branch, which can also request them, without a majority vote - it’s explicitly illegal.

    Conspiracy theories range far and wide as to what we can expect from such disclosure, but the current debate is more about trying to embarrass the president than performing actual oversight. We have no reason to believe tax evasion is taking place for the simple reason the IRS audits the tax returns of every president and vice president annually while in office. Any explicitly illegal activity would therefore be prosecuted.

    The practice of unilaterally releasing tax returns would set a dangerous precedent eroding our most basic privacy rights. Congress is rightfully vested with a great deal of power in our constitutional democracy, but this also means there is virtually no check on its power. Weaponizing the president’s tax returns against him because political parties don’t agree on policy would be undignified, dangerous, and could lead to retribution.

    Spanberger Helps Introduce Legislation to Tackle Overpriced Prescription Drugs

    Washington, D.C. - February 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger helped introduce legislation to address the prescription drug affordability crisis in Central Virginia and across the country.

    According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, prices of the 20 most-commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors have increased at a rate approximately 10 times higher than the average annual rate of inflation over the past five years. And although 48 million fewer prescriptions were written for these drugs between 2012 and 2017, total sales revenue from these prescriptions increased by nearly $8.5 billion during that period.

    Currently, the federal government cannot negotiate prescription drug prices within Medicare Part D to help lower costs. The Spanberger-backed legislation would authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

    “The cost of prescription drugs is an overwhelming burden for far too many Americans, especially our seniors on fixed incomes, and it’s unacceptable that Medicare can’t negotiate prescription drug prices,” said Spanberger. “I’m proud to help introduce legislation that would bring competition to the market and drive down prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate. This bill will help American seniors across the country—and is a strong first step in addressing the rising costs of prescription drugs.”

    The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act would also allow the U.S. Secretary of HHS to oversee competitive licensing, should negotiation fail. This provision would authorize other manufacturers to produce a similar drug for Medicare, potentially leading to lower prices through marketplace competition.

    Spanberger is an original co-sponsor of this legislation, which is led by U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35). The bill is endorsed by healthcare, labor, and retirement advocacy groups, including:

    Alliance for Retired Americans,
    American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO),
    American Federation of Teachers,
    Communication Workers of America,
    American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME),
    Center for Medicare Advocacy, and
    Social Security Works

    (All added to The Ponder Sources)

    Earlier this week, Spanberger called on President Trump to prioritize legislative efforts that would help address the rising cost of prescription drugs for seniors in Central Virginia.

    Sherrill Strengthens VA Child Care Bill

    Washington, D.C. - February 8, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- This morning Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ, 11th) successfully offered three amendments to the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act of 2019. The bill makes permanent a 2010 pilot program to provide child care at VA medical centers and clinics around the country.

    The Congresswoman’s amendments specifically include military sexual trauma (MST) counseling and care services in the definition of services eligible for childcare at a VA center or clinic, and bar employment in a VA child care center of individuals convicted of a sex crime, an offense involving a child victim, a violent crime, a drug felony, or other offense the Secretary of Veterans Affairs deems appropriate. It also ensures that the bill will not weaken state or local laws that enforce rigorous hiring guidelines. Congresswoman Sherrill introduced an amendment on behalf of Colin Allred of Texas that requires the VA Secretary to provide public notification on about the program, and to perform outreach to inform eligible veterans.

    The amendments on MST and public notice passed the House by voice vote. The amendment on barring employment of individuals convicted of a sex crime passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 401 to 19.

    Excerpts from Congresswoman Sherrill’s floor speech on barring employment of individuals convicted of a sex crime, offense involving a child victim, a violent crime, a drug felon, or other offense deemed appropriate by the VA Secretary:

    “As a working mom, I know all too well how important it is to know that your children have a safe and healthy environment while away from home. Mr. Chair, ensuring our veterans have access to childcare at VA facilities is the least we can do for the men and women who have stood up to serve our country.”

    “This bill means less stress for our veterans who would need to otherwise arrange for childcare to make an appointment. [Veterans In my community] have also told me that this bill will help veterans make and attend appointments because they wouldn’t have to worry about arranging childcare. This acknowledges both the needs of our veterans and creates a support network for them.”

    Excerpts of Congresswoman Sherrill’s floor speech on including military sexual trauma is included in the definition of services:

    “Over the summer, I spoke to veterans in my district in New Jersey about the inadequacies they see in VA services for this generation of returning service members. I heard from female service members about the need for better counseling services for victims of military sexual trauma, or MST.”

    “These are the invisible wounds of war – invisible trauma that we cannot see as our service members return home. I’m particularly concerned that victims of sexual trauma, which is prevalent in military and civilian populations, are not getting the services they need.

    “This amendment will ensure survivors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve when trying to access care at the VA, without worrying about the cost or availability of childcare.”

    Excerpts of Congresswoman Sherrill’s floor speech on providing public notification about the cost-free child care services provided in the bill:

    “Each of us have heard from the women and men who have served and sacrificed in uniform about the challenges that come from seeking access to the benefits veterans have earned. Last year, at a veterans’ round table in Woodland Park, I heard from women veterans that it is not enough for Congress to enact a new provision and think our job is done.

    “Simply put, this important childcare program will not work as intended, or have the reach it could, without informing our servicemen and women that it exists in the first place.

    The pilot program to provide child care at VA medical centers and clinics has received bipartisan support in multiple congressional reauthorizations, and is incredibly popular with the veteran community. The bill will expand the program beyond the VA centers in the pilot program, and designate that all caretakers, including parents and grandparents, can access this service when seeking health services at a VA center.

    Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and previously served as a U.S. Navy helicopter pilot. Congresswoman Sherrill is committed to improving services for the more than 25,000 veterans in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District.

    See also: US House passes bipartisan Veterans' Access to Child Care Act of 2019