Friday, January 24, 2020


by U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL, 17th)

Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), along with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), have applauded new U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) initiatives designed to help avoid traffic accidents and save the lives of first responders rushing to aid in emergencies. The new initiatives closely mirror legislation Bustos, Durbin and Duckworth introduced last year that would establish a new national safety priority within an existing federal grant program to increase public awareness of “Move Over” laws and encourage implementation of life-saving digital alert technology. This technology is also referred to as V2X, or “vehicle-to-everything” communications systems, which can communicate with smartphones and other vehicles to alert passengers of an approaching emergency responder vehicle.

DOT’s announcement of these initiatives follows funding for a $5 million pilot program as part of a year-end bill that Bustos helped pass after Durbin secured language in the legislation. The pilot program would test and deploy these digital alert technologies to protect law enforcement, first responders, roadside crews, and others while on the job.

“We need to bring an end to the preventable tragedies we have seen along our roads and highways,” said Bustos. “That’s why I partnered with Senators Durbin and Duckworth to introduce legislation that brings awareness to our ‘Move Over’ laws and implements crash avoidance technology, and I’m pleased the Department of Transportation is taking initiatives to help address this issue. As the wife of a sheriff, I’m grateful for the work our first responders do every day and will continue to work to keep them safe.”

“We saw heartbreaking roadside accidents in Illinois last year, and we need to reverse the alarming rise in first responder roadside deaths,” Durbin said. “The initiatives announced by DOT are a helpful step forward that will provide states with resources to better enforce ‘Move Over’ laws and help keep our first responders safe.”

“One year ago this week, Illinois State Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed after being struck by a vehicle while assisting at a multi-vehicle crash. Trooper Lambert’s death and others like it reflect a troubling increase in first responder deaths that demands action,” said Duckworth. “I’m glad DOT is investing in new life-saving technologies like the First Responder Safety Technology Pilot Program, and I’ll continue to work with Senator Durbin and Representative Bustos to increase awareness of ‘Move Over’ laws and protect our first responders.”

In April 2019, Durbin paid tribute to three Illinois State Troopers who were killed after being struck by vehicles on the sides of roads and highways last year. Durbin honored Illinois State Troopers Brooke Jones-Story, Jerry Ellis, and Chris Lambert, and recognized the efforts of Lucy Kuelper, the daughter of an Illinois State Trooper who created a Facebook page to raise awareness about move over laws.

The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act, introduced by Bustos, Durbin and Duckworth last year, would establish move over law education and compliance as a national highway safety priority under existing NHTSA programs. This would allow states to apply for grant funding to execute move over law awareness campaigns, and to equip vehicles with digital alert and crash avoidance technology.

The digital alert technology, which is the focus of DOT’s new initiatives, is currently deployed by some localities around the country. This technology sends a real-time, audible, hands-free warning to motorists via navigation apps on their smartphone or their in-vehicle navigation system; notifying the driver when they are approaching an emergency responder vehicle. Deploying the technology only requires a small, inexpensive transponder to be added to emergency vehicles.

As of the Members’ introduction of the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act, 17 Illinois State Police (ISP) squad cars had been struck as a result of drivers failing to move over—twice as many as in 2018. Several suffered serious injuries and three of these incidents were fatal.

At least 37 auto-related first-responder deaths were recorded nationwide in 2019, of which 14 were officers struck by vehicles. Studies show more than 70 percent of Americans are unaware of Move Over laws like Scott’s Law in Illinois. All 50 states have Move Over laws.

Illinois’ move over law, called “Scott’s Law” was first enacted in 2002 to require motorists to slow down, and when possible, move over for all emergency vehicles with their lights on. It was later expanded in 2017 to include all pulled-over vehicles with their hazard lights on. The law is named after Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who was killed in 2000 on the Bishop Ford Freeway. In July 2019, Governor Pritzker signed a bill expanding upon the law, which increases the fines for violators and charges them an additional $250 fee to establish a fund for education and enforcement of the law.

The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act would also:

  • Require NHTSA to promulgate rules mandating crash avoidance technology on all new motor vehicles, within two years, including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warnings.
  • Require all federal fleet vehicles to have crash avoidance technology (automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warnings) within five years.
  • Require all federal fleet vehicles used for emergency response activities to be equipped with digital alert technology within five years.
  • Require research on the efficacy of Move Over laws and related public awareness campaigns as well as recommendations on how to improve these efforts to prevent roadside deaths.

  • Senator Burr Applauds Department of Transportation’s Proposed Rulemaking of Service Animals on Flights

    by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- the Department of Transportation announced its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation of service animals on aircraft.

    Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who led efforts to strengthen the standards of service animals on aircraft, welcomed the Department of Transportation’s announcement.

    “When individuals are trying to bring any variety of animals on flights by fraudulently claiming disability needs, we have a problem,” said Senator Burr. “It isn’t fair to passengers, airlines, or those who do require properly trained service animals. It’s time we enact commonsense regulations that protect the ability of individuals and veterans with disabilities to travel with their trained service animals. I’ve been working to create stricter guidelines for service animals on airlines, and I applaud the Department of Transportation for taking steps to ensure our nation’s air transportation system is safer and more accessible.”


    On April 24, 2018, Senator Burr introduced legislation to better align the definition of a “service animal” under the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) with the definition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), establish a criminal penalty for making misrepresentations about service animals, and require federal agencies to establish a standard of service animal behavior training for animals on aircraft.

    During consideration of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act in October 2018, Senator Burr negotiated the inclusion of an amendment to require the FAA to establish rulemaking to define the term “service animal” for air transportation and develop minimum standards for service and emotional support animals carried on airplanes.

    As a result of this successful negotiation, the Department of Transportation announced it is seeking public comment on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on traveling by air with service animals. Specifically, the proposed rulemaking:

  • Aligns the definition of a service animal with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition.
  • Does not require airlines to recognize “emotional support animals” as “service animals.” Airlines would be permitted to treat “emotional support animals,” which do not have the proper training for qualified individuals with disabilities, as pets.
  • Allows airlines to only transport dogs as service animals rather than accommodating miniature horses, peacocks, cats, rabbits, birds, and other service animals that airlines are currently required to transport.

  • Despite Slow Growth in 2019, Ohio’s Job Market Trends in Positive Direction

    by Buckeye Institute

    Columbus, OH - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- Andrew J. Kidd, Ph.D., an economist with The Buckeye Institute’s Economic Research Center, commented on newly released employment data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

    “Ohio ended 2019 with 10,400 new private-sector jobs, and the state’s unemployment rate held at near record lows at 4.2 percent. The year also ended with two consecutive months of above-average job growth for the decade, marking a positive trend for Ohio’s job market and one to watch throughout 2020.

    “December’s job growth was spread across a number of industries and sectors. Construction recovered some of the losses it experienced in 2019, adding 3,400 jobs—the largest job growth in any sector in December. This growth is critical as employer demand for skilled trade workers is high, and preparing workers for the industry will attract more businesses and workers to Ohio. The professional and tech services sector—which added 2,200 jobs in December—ended the year up 15,500 jobs, the highest growth of any sector in 2019. This growth in professional and tech services illustrates Ohio’s continued shift from its manufacturing roots (down 1,700 jobs in 2019) to a more service-oriented economy. The administrative and support services sector lost 2,200 jobs in December, which was a nationwide trend as automated services and technology replaced executive assistants and other support staff.

    “With annual revisions and updates due in March, it remains to be seen how Ohio faired in 2019, yet, job growth continued its long-term trend of lagging below the national average and growth in 2019 was hampered by trade tensions and recession concerns. To reverse this long-term trend, there are reforms policymakers can adopt that will spur job growth. Ohio desperately needs municipal and local tax reform and should eliminate its personal income and commercial activity taxes. Recent changes to job training programs, and the announcement of the Industry Sector Partnership Grant will provide workers the in-demand skills needed to fill thousands of job openings in the state. And enacting universal occupational licensing reciprocity will make Ohio more attractive to employees and employers by making it easier for licensed professionals to continue their careers in Ohio.”

    Buchanan Asks Gov to Protect Florida Panther

    by U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL, 16th)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Vern Buchanan today urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider protecting the endangered Florida Panther when drafting construction plans for the new Heartland Parkway.

    In a letter to DeSantis, Buchanan said the 140-mile proposed highway from Polk to Collier Counties will run directly into the habitat of the panther. Construction is expected to begin by 2022.

    The greatest threat to the endangered animal is being run over by cars. Four panthers already have been killed in collisions so far this year.

    Buchanan urged DeSantis to instruct his state Department of Transportation to devise ways to avoid fatal disruptions to the panther’s habitat. One of the best ways to protect the animal would be to create over-passes or under-passes, a type of wildlife corridor, that provide a safe way for the animals to navigate a highway.

    “Modernizing our infrastructure to deal with continued population growth is important, but so is ensuring the survival of an endangered species that also happens to be the Florida state animal,” Buchanan said, noting there are fewer than 250 of these magnificent creatures alive today. “We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”

    According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 23 of the 27 panther deaths last year were caused by vehicle collisions.

    Buchanan is a leading advocate in Congress for protecting endangered species. He introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in 2019 to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands and establish a grant program for states localities and private landowners to support wildlife. Buchanan’s bill would protect many iconic species of Florida wildlife, including the manatee, alligator and Florida panther.

    Read the full text of the letter below:

    Dear Governor DeSantis,

    As you work on drafting construction plans for the new Heartland Parkway, I ask that you consider safeguards to avoid disrupting the habitat of the endangered Florida panther. Specifically, the 140-mile proposed highway is expected to run from Polk County to Collier County, through the heart of some of the last remaining panther habitat.

    While Florida’s official state animal once roamed the entire Southeast, there are currently fewer than 250 of these big cats alive today. Tragically, 23 of the 27 panther deaths last year were caused by vehicle collisions, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. There have already been a staggering four deaths in just the first two weeks of the new year.

    The panther was one of the original 14 mammals named to the federal endangered species list in 1967. Despite this classification, a critical habitat has never been established for the Florida panther even though one is required by the Endangered Species Act. “Without a sufficient protected habitat, there is no viable recovery,” according to the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national non-profit alliance consisting of scientists, law enforcement officers and land managers.

    And while several hurdles remain for the survival and full recovery of these beautiful creatures, it is clear that the greatest threats to their survival is the loss of habitat and vehicle collisions. According to the National Wildlife Federation, construction causes habitat loss and highways pose a significant threat to panthers attempting to cross. I was very disturbed to see a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently warn that “This project would have very serious impacts on the Florida panther.” That is why it is important that you take this into consideration and plan accordingly as you construct the state’s largest highway expansion in more than half a century.

    Modernizing our infrastructure to deal with continued population growth is important, but so is ensuring the survival of an endangered species that also happens to be the Florida state animal. We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct. One of the best ways to protect the animal would be to create over-passes or under-passes that provide a safe way for the animals to navigate a highway.

    That’s why I introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in Congress to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands and establish a grant program for states, localities and private landowners to support wildlife. My bill would protect many iconic species of Florida wildlife, including the manatee, alligator and Florida panther.

    While the panther population has grown since 1967, the species still has progress to make. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2008 recovery plan states that removing protections for panthers would require two viable, self-sustaining populations of at least 240 individuals that have existed for at least twelve years.

    Florida panthers have become our iconic symbol for the wilderness and beauty of Florida. We must do everything possible to protect this treasured species. That’s why I’m asking you to instruct the Florida Department of Transportation to devise ways to avoid fatal disruptions to the panther’s habitat.

    Brown Blasts President Trump’s Shameful Comments Regarding Servicemembers Who Experience Head Trauma in the Line of Duty

    by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released the following statement after President Trump recently downplayed head trauma suffered by servicemembers in the line of duty, by saying "I heard that they had headaches. And a couple of other things – but I would say and I can report it is not very serious."

    “It is shameful that President Trump would downplay the hidden conditions that so many of our combat servicemembers experience in conflict zones,” said Brown. “We have a duty to provide care and benefits for those who answer the call to duty for the combat injuries they suffered, seen or unseen.”

    Brown, Cisneros, Escobar, Sherrill and 27 Lawmakers Demand Answers on Diverted Military Funds for Border Wall Construction

    by U.S. Representative Anthony Brown (D-MD, 4th)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Congressman Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and 27 lawmakers sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper about the administration’s plan to divert billions of dollars in military funds to the construction of additional fencing and barriers along the U.S.- Mexico border.

    Last year, a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of more than 300 Senators and Representatives voted to terminate the Administration’s unjustified national emergency declaration. Available data and Department of Defense officials both confirm that there is no significant national security threat at America’s southwest border. Congress has met the President’s request for additional funds over the last three budget cycles by appropriating $4.5 billion for barriers and fencing. Nevertheless in FY19, the Administration diverted $6.1 billion of Department of Defense funding for border wall construction and is reportedly redirecting an additional $7.2 billion in FY20.

    “Despite the significant resources appropriated by Congress for border security, the Administration still decided to circumvent Congress,” the lawmakers wrote. “The military construction projects being delayed or cancelled will only add to the over $116 billion maintenance backlog of projects, directly impacting our military readiness and the well-being of our military families.”

    Many of the projects impacted by this decision would have improved the quality of life for military service members and their families. Updating classrooms, clinics and other facilities used by troops and their loved ones is important to both morale and safety. The lawmakers asked the Department of Defense to reconsider its decision which would cause lasting harm to the United States’ ability to build and sustain readiness, meet the security challenges and honor the sacrifices of our armed forces and their families.

    “Military families are paying the price for President Trump’s ineffective vanity project,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “In cancelling hundreds of projects across the country, including child care centers in my district, the Trump Administration is failing to live up to the promises we make to our troops and their families. Mexico isn’t paying for this wall, the burden is falling on these brave families.”

    “It’s outrageous that the President is stealing money from our troops and military families, again, for his ineffective, wasteful wall. We currently face a diverse array of threats around the world and, as a former Navy supply officer, I know that our military commanders are fighting for this funding in order to face those threats. We cannot take money away from our military leaders to pay for a vanity project that does nothing for our security,” said Congressman Gil Cisneros. “Despite Congress having the power of the purse, the Administration has continued to turn a blind eye to the roles and responsibilities laid out in our Constitution. Their actions only jeopardize our military readiness and take resources away from our troops serving our nation.”
    “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have worked closely and carefully with military leaders to ensure appropriate resourcing for our military. It is simply unacceptable that the President would then rob these resources for a second time to carry out a campaign promise, particularly from funds allocated for critical military construction projects that would improve conditions for military families at bases around the country and abroad,” said Congresswoman Veronica Escobar. “Military families deserve better from their Commander in Chief.”

    “I firmly believe we can secure our borders without stripping funds from programs critical to military readiness and military families,” said Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. “Congress passed record-level funding for border security in a bipartisan vote last year, and this plan to divert necessary military funding undermines the safety and mission of our armed forces.”

    Signers include; Reps. Don Beyer (VA-08), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Andre Carson (IN-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Elaine Luria (VA-02), James McGovern (MA-02), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Darren Soto (FL-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Filemon Vela (TX-34) and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

    Read the full letter below.

    Dear Secretary Esper:

    We write to express our continued and deepening concern regarding reports that the Administration is once more planning to divert billions of dollars of military funds to the construction of additional fencing and other barriers on the southwest border.

    There is clearly no requirement for the use of military resources to construct a border wall. The Administration’s use of the national emergency declaration and the military to address the humanitarian situation does not properly reflect the current environment. The number of apprehensions over the last two years remains lower than any two years of the George W. Bush administration. In addition, the number of apprehensions and individuals deemed ‘inadmissible’ has decreased by 30% in the first three months of Fiscal Year 2020. These data points do not justify the declaration of a national emergency or the use of military funding for the construction of a border wall. Members of Congress agree in a bipartisan and bicameral manner, with more than 300 Senators and Representatives voting last year to terminate the emergency.

    Department of Defense military and civilian leaders share this perspective and agree there is not a national security threat on the border. Last year at a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Department of Defense witnesses confirmed the lack of a significant threat when they stated they were “not aware of any terrorist threat” on the southwest border. Additionally, the witnesses stated the forces deployed to the border were “engineers and cops”. Their testimony makes it clear that managing the border is better suited for the Department of Homeland Security, local law enforcement, and humanitarian aid workers, not the Department of Defense.

    Despite these assessments from senior defense leaders, the administration continues to wastefully and irresponsibly reallocate defense funds to the border wall even as Congress has dramatically increased funding for border security. In the decade prior to the 2016 election, Congress appropriated nearly $2.5 billion to the Department of Homeland Security to construct primary barriers on the southwest border. In the past three budget cycles, Congress has met the President’s request for additional funds by appropriating $4.5 billion for barriers and fencing, a funding rate six times higher than the average of the previous ten years.

    Despite the significant resources appropriated by Congress for border security, the Administration still decided to circumvent Congress and allocate $6.1 billion of Department of Defense funding for border wall construction. Our understanding is that a significant portion of the previously reprogrammed funds still remain unobligated, to include at least $1.8 billion in military construction funds that were diverted to border wall construction. Yet, it is being reported that the Department of Defense will be ordered to redirect an additional $7.2 billion towards construction of the wall. This would bring the total amount of Department of Defense funding to a total of $13.3 billion in transfers - more than the full unit acquisition cost of a Ford-class aircraft carrier, the entire research and development cost for the Columbia class of submarines, or the $10.6 billion to purchase 98 F-35s in FY2020. The military construction projects being delayed or cancelled will only add to the over $116 billion maintenance backlog of projects, directly impacting our military readiness and the well-being of our military families.

    These actions come as we continue to face diverse, complex, and pressing security threats around the globe while trying to modernize our military and restore readiness. The lack of a strategy for the Middle East has led us to significantly heightened tensions with Iran, China and Russia continue to attempt to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model, North Korea remains an agitator in the Pacific, and we continue to support our allies and partners in the fight against terrorism. We acknowledge that balancing the Department's resources across these competing requirements is a difficult task, which leaves us more confounded how the Department can reallocate resources towards a border wall that lacks a clear defense-related requirement.

    These actions further run counter to the bipartisan budget agreements in Congress that have allowed us to begin recovering the readiness lost during sequestration. Over the last three years, Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to address the threats our nation faces by significantly increasing defense funding, providing greater budget certainty for the Department of Defense, and honoring the commitment we make to our service members: that they are as well trained and equipped as possible to confront our adversaries. Much as the impact from sequestration compounded in each subsequent year, a decision by the administration to once more cancel military construction projects requested by the Department of Defense, and authorized and appropriated by Congress, will cause a lasting detriment to our ability to build and sustain readiness, meet the security challenges we face, and to honor our promises to our armed forces and their families.

    For all the above reasons we strongly urge you to reconsider before making any decision to redirect Department of Defense resources for the construction of additional border wall. We hope you take into consideration how such a move would impact our ability to modernize our military, restore and sustain readiness, and execute the National Defense Strategy. In the event that FY2020 Department of Defense funds are transferred to construct primary fencing or other barriers on the southwest border, we request the following:

    1. For each barrier project pursued using Military Construction funding:

    a. a DD1391,

    b. a detailed explanation for how the proposed border wall project directly supports the use of U.S. armed forces operating at the site of proposed construction in accordance with section 2808 of title 10, United States Code,

    c. the planned date for obligating the funds, and

    d. the dates of contract award, construction start, and construction complete.

    2. A full list of the installations which are delayed, modified, or cancelled due to the transfer of the funds.

    3. The impact on the volume and seizure of narcotics along the southwest border at and between the ports of entry due to transfer of funds for the proposed barrier projects.

    4. The amount of FY2019 funds transferred for barrier construction which were obligated as of January 1, 2020.

    5. The projected spend plan for the funds transferred in FY2019.

    We look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen our national defense, to support our warfighters, and to ensure we are realizing the most value from each taxpayer dollar appropriated to the Department of Defense.


    Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04)

    Congressman Gil Cisneros (CA-39)

    Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16)

    Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11)

    Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08)

    Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24)

    Congressman Tony Cardenas (CA-29)

    Congressman Andre Carson (IN-07)

    Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20)

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)

    Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)

    Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29)

    Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01)

    Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05)

    Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06)

    Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02)

    Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)

    Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)

    Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02)

    Congressman James McGovern (MA-02)

    Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06)

    Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01)

    Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL)

    Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08)

    Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)

    Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09)

    Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14)

    Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03)

    Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51)

    Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34)

    Congressman Peter Welch (VT-AL)

    Reps. DeFazio, Bonamici Visit U.S.-Mexico Border to Investigate President Trump’s Remain in Mexico Policy

    by U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR, 1st)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) participated in a Congressional delegation trip to Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, Mexico to investigate the Trump Administration’s Remain in Mexico policy and the use of tent court facilities to adjudicate Remain in Mexico asylum cases.

    “I’ve visited refugee camps around the world, and what I saw today is a disgrace to the United States of America and the ideals on which our nation was founded,” said Rep. DeFazio. “The conditions to which we are submitting asylum-seekers—including widespread disease, inadequate medical care, rampant violence and sexual assault, and non-existent infrastructure—is inhumane, plain and simple. This crisis is the direct result of President Trump’s cruel and ineffective Remain in Mexico policy, and Congress must put an end to it as soon as possible.”

    “Walking around this enormous camp just over the bridge from America – the land of opportunity – we saw families and so many children living in squalor trying to make a life for themselves,” said Rep. Bonamici. “We met a family from El Salvador and the mom was trying to explain to us how sick her child is. She took us around to the opening of her tent and let us look inside to see her sick baby on the floor. This is no way to treat families who are coming to the United States because they are seeking a better life. They are escaping violence. They are escaping countries where they don’t feel—and are not—safe. We need to open our arms and open our hearts and let these families make their case here in the United States of America.”

    In January 2019, the Trump administration enacted Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, which allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to return applicants for admission to the United States to the contiguous country from which they arrived (on land) pending removal proceedings. The MPP sends migrants back to Mexico to await their court proceedings for the duration of their case.

    Since last winter, DHS has sent an estimated 60,000 asylum seekers back into Mexico under the MPP. The Wall Street Journal reported that through the end of November, more than 15,000 of those people have been ordered deported, and 117 have been granted asylum or some other relief.

    The tent encampment in Matamoros is the largest of its kind on the U.S.-Mexico border, with an estimated 3,000 asylum-seekers waiting for their claims to be processed. Reports indicate widespread disease, inadequate infrastructure, and a high incidence of violence and sexual assault.

    Blackburn Statement on the Senate Impeachment Organizing Resolution

    by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- “First, the Democratic House impeachment managers told us the evidence against President Trump was ‘overwhelming.’ Right after, we heard there wasn’t enough evidence, and we would need to allow additional testimony in order to get it.

    “House Democrats had ample opportunity to seek testimony from the witnesses they are now requesting, but they decided instead to rush through their unsubstantiated articles of impeachment. The Democrats are entangled in an intellectually dishonest effort to force a constitutional challenge against executive privilege in the name of taking down President Trump at all costs. We don’t need more testimony – we need less abuse of the Constitution, less mania and zero impeachment do overs. President Trump, like any American, has the right to seek relief in the courts, and if Democrats will punish him for this right, they will do it to anyone. Enough is enough.

    “Majority Leader McConnell pledged that the trial in his chamber would employ fair process. And today, the Senate set fair rules to review the House’s work. We will continue to run a thorough, constitutional process so we can all get back to improving the lives of the American people.” – Senator Marsha Blackburn

    Pregnant Women Health and Safety Act

    by U.S. Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ, 5th)

    Gilbert, AZ - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- This week, Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the Pregnant Women Health and Safety Act, which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a local hospital and to adhere to basic safety standards. Congressman Biggs, Senator Kennedy, and others offered the following statements:

    “Many abortion providers refuse to accept the reality that an abortion is a serious medical procedure that should be treated with the same care and caution as any other surgery or medical treatment. Women deserve to have doctors and medical professionals who can provide quality care and quickly address any complications that may arise. Requiring doctors and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and to maintain safe and clean clinics should be common sense measures that face little opposition.

    “Sadly, we know many abortion providers’ main priority is not tending to the health and safety of pregnant women. Instead it’s maintaining and protecting the profitable abortion market. According to National Right to Life’s annual report, more than 61 million abortions have been performed in the United States since abortion became legal in 1973. It is heartbreaking that our society is willing to accept this loss of life. I will continue working with my colleagues and pro-life leaders around the nation until we end this practice and protect the rights of both pregnant women and their unborn children. And I am grateful to Senator Kennedy for his partnership in introducing this important legislation.” – Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05)

    “It’s hard to imagine someone more in need of access to quality medical care than an expectant mother and her unborn child. The abortion industry cuts corners at the expense of vulnerable people, and the Pregnant Women Health and Safety Act would ensure that women have easy access to vital protective care.

    “I’m thankful to partner with my friend Andy Biggs in this effort to save and improve lives and encourage my colleagues in both chambers of Congress to support this legislation.” – Senator John Kennedy (R-LA)

    “The March for Life applauds Representative Biggs and Senator Kennedy for standing up for both women and children. Abortion facilities harm women and are always dangerous and medically substandard. Abortionists are more concerned with their profits than with women’s health and safety – we thank the elected officials who are willing to hold these abortionists responsible.” – Tom McClusky, President, March for Life Action

    “Excluding abortion facilities from following standard health procedures is no way to promote women’s health care. We’re grateful to Congressman Biggs for introducing legislation to ensure that our laws protect the health and safety of both the mother and her child.” – Travis Weber, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Family Research Council

    “It’s long past time for abortion providers to recognize the serious dangers of abortion. While we long for the day when abortion is unthinkable, the reality today is any abortion should be performed in a safe environment by a doctor who can care for the women from beginning to end, including any emergency that may arise. I am grateful to Congressman Biggs for standing up for these principles and remaining steadfast in his fight against abortion.” – Cathi Herrod, President, Center for Arizona Policy

    The Navigable Waters Protection Rule

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- The Trump Administration finalized its rule to eliminate protections for wetlands, streams and other bodies of water. The new replacement rule will gut Obama-era regulations that define the waters of the United States (WOTUS) -- the rivers, streams and wetlands that fed into the drinking water supply of 1 in 3 Americans.

    “This reckless attack by the Trump Administration represents a generational setback in the country’s battle to safeguard clean water that will harm Virginians and the Chesapeake Bay. It sacrifices the health of over half of America’s wetlands, and puts the drinking water of millions at risk. Once again, President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler are prioritizing the profits of corporate polluters over working families, businesses, clean drinking water, and vulnerable communities. We must not let this stand; House Democrats will continue to fight for clean water for all Americans," said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

    “Hoosier farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our state’s economy. Today’s clarification that their farm ditches will no longer be regulated by the federal government as navigable waters is a commonsense change that provides ag producers certainty and ensures a proper balance exists between the federal government and a state’s rights to protect their own water resources. The new rule removes confusion and uncertainty about where federal jurisdiction ends and where state authority begins. I applaud the Trump Administration for keeping yet another promise they made to the American people," stated U.S. Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN, 8th)

    Additionally, the final rule identifies clarifies that “Waters of the United States” are not features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall, groundwater, ditches, including most roadside and farm ditches, farm and stock watering ponds, waste treatment systems, and prior converted cropland.

    Senator Benjamin L.Cardin (D - MD) commented, “Clean, safe water is a right of every person in this country. But the Trump administration does not seem to prioritize clean water or public health. Time and again they have shown their sole priority to be protecting polluters at the expense of evidence-based public policies that were built on years-long scientific research.”

    Senator Cardin has long urged the Trump administration to protect the Clean Water Rule and protect America’s clean drinking water. In April 2019, he led colleagues in a letter to Wheeler and James during the formal rulemaking comment period urging them to abandon the dangerous proposal.

    He continued with, “Continued success of the Clean Water Act requires a clear and scientifically sound definition for determining which bodies of water are protected, while protecting those waters that influence the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters—the goal at the heart of the Act. However, the final rule provides neither the certainty requested by our constituents, nor the clean and healthy waters upon which we all depend. Instead, this rewrite makes it nearly impossible for stakeholders and regulators to easily and consistently define perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams. Far from fulfilling the President’s promise to create a nationally consistent rule, this rule injects ambiguity into the law at the expense of our decades of progress in cleaning up our waters.

    “For Maryland and the Chesapeake region, the Trump administration’s latest rollback of federal clean water regulations undermines the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort by eliminating federal protections for thousands of acres of wetlands and some headwater streams. Under the Trump administration’s new water rule, isolated wetlands not connected by surface waters to navigable waterways in an average year will be denied federal protections. This would make them more vulnerable to pollution, and make it harder for state and local governments, farmers, nonprofits and businesses to achieve their nutrient and sediment reduction goals. Also exposed would be streams that flow only after rain or snowmelt, called ‘ephemeral’ streams, that play a critical role in supplying clean drinking water and as tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. In the long run, this rollback will cost American taxpayers money for increased health costs and other harmful effects of increased pollution in our waterways.”

    Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) had long criticized the Obama-era WOTUS rule for its burdensome and confusing regulations, as well as its infringement on private citizens’ property rights. The rule was considered by many Louisiana farmers, construction workers and energy producers to be a broad overreach of the federal government’s authority.

    “Clean water and common-sense regulation – President Trump’s WOTUS rule achieves both. Louisiana workers now have needed certainty to plan for their futures and further contribute to our nation’s robust economy,” said Dr. Cassidy.

    U.S Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming at large) stated, “The Obama Administration’s attempt to redefine navigable waters was a blatant, unconstitutional power grab aimed at taking federal control over state water laws and private water rights. Thankfully, President Trump and House Republicans made it a top priority to put a stop to this clear abuse of power that threatened precious resources for hardworking ranchers and farmers in Wyoming, and would have devastated our rural economy. I’m pleased to see EPA Administrator Wheeler take the next step to protect our nation’s water resources by clearly defining what is and what is not considered ‘navigable water.’ This new rule, which included input from a wide range of stakeholders, will provide regulatory certainty that respects the water rights of the people of Wyoming.”

    Congressman James Comer applauded the Trump Administration’s action, noting that farmers would benefit from less burdensome regulations by saying, “Our farmers have suffered under the heavy-handed regulations put into place by the Obama Administration. Now, President Trump’s plan of deregulation and ending inconsistent regulatory patchwork is becoming a reality through this new definition of WOTUS,” Congressman Comer said. “Farmers and businesses across the nation have been in need of a consistent regulatory framework that allows them to function with clarity and predictability. Finally repealing the 2015 Rule will foster regulatory consistency and allow for important projects to move forward. I’m proud to support President Trump’s plan and I look forward to the effects of this new definition on Kentucky’s agriculture and inland waterway industries.”

    Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment Myron Ebell said, “The rule appears to make several significant improvements to the 2018 proposed rule. In particular, the rule defines the limits of federal jurisdiction over waters and wetlands more carefully and lists more clearly the types of areas that are excluded from federal regulation. The bad old days when the Corps of Engineers used the overly broad and vague 1987 delineation manual creatively to expand federal regulation to lands that might occasionally be moist should be gone for good.

    “However, rather than simply adopting Justice Scalia’s clear language in the 2006 Rapanos decision, the final rule still tries to include parts of Justice Kennedy’s ill-considered ‘significant nexus’ test, which he invented in his concurring opinion. This means that it is unlikely to meet EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s admirable goal of having a definition of wetlands that is clear and simple enough that landowners can understand ‘whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.’”

    Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) commented, “During the last Administration, I heard consistent concerns from farmers, ranchers, small businesses, governors, and many others about the extremely broad definition of ‘waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act,” said Representative Mike Simpson. “During Congressional hearings and meetings in my office, I received no clarity between federal and state jurisdiction over which waters were regulated by who. That is why I am pleased the EPA and the Corps took note of those concerns and rewrote the rule in a way that maintains critical protections under the Clean Water Act, while also appropriately delegating state and local jurisdictions in charge of regulating smaller bodies of water, as the law was intended. I have great confidence in the State of Idaho given their experience and increased responsibility with State primacy.”

    “The Obama Administration's Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule was the definition of federal overreach and an attempt to control Idaho’s waterways. As I’ve followed water policy during my tenure in the Idaho state legislature, I understand that federal mandates do not work for Idahoans," said Representative Russ Fulcher. “I commend the Trump Administration for keeping their promise and reestablishing the appropriate state authority in relation to the Clean Water Act. This new rule will help Idaho farms, businesses, and other job creators so our state can continue to thrive as an economic leader in our nation.”

    The Navigable Waters Protection Rule identifies four clear categories of waters that are federal regulated:
  • The territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
  • Perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters;
  • Certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and
  • Wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.

  • WOTUS is not:

  • Features that contain water only as a response to rainfall
  • Groundwater
  • Many ditches, including most roadside and farm ditches
  • Farm and stock watering ponds
  • Prior converted crop land.

  • Boozman Applauds USDA Broadband Investment in Arkansas

    by Senator John Boozman (R-AR)

    Washington, D.C. - January 24, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) applauded the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) $7.1 million broadband investment in rural Arkansas. The grant will support two high-speed broadband infrastructure projects to improve rural broadband for 1,250 homes in Baxter, Marion and Stone counties.

    “Improving broadband in rural Arkansas is critical to helping families, businesses and communities stay connected in today’s world. As a rural state, there are more challenges to providing Arkansans access to the minimum speed of wired broadband that experts agree is functional: 25 megabits per second. The ReConnect Program is an important tool that allows USDA to close the digital divide and improve broadband access in rural America,” Boozman said.

    USDA announced it awarded grant funds to the Yelcot Telephone Company and the Mountain View Telephone Company.

    Last year, Boozman expressed his support for USDA’s Reconnect Programin a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee hearing with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. Boozman, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, helped secure funding for the ReConnect program. He is a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, a bipartisan group aimed at closing the digital divide.

    Learn more about USDA’s ReConnect program.