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.”