Saturday, March 11, 2017

This Week in the House - March 13

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Every Saturday, the Majority Leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, whose slogan is "A new day for American Conservatism," posts the schedule of Bills and Resolutions that the House will consider in the following week.


Monday, March 13:
No votes are expected.

Tuesday, March 14:
1) H.R. 132 – Arbuckle Project Maintenance Complex and District Office Conveyance Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 648 – To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to amend the Definite Plan Report for the Seedskadee Project to enable the use of the active capacity of the Fontenelle Reservoir (Sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney / Natural Resources Committee)

3) H.R. 267 – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Lewis / Natural Resources Committee)

Wednesday, March 15:
H.R. 1181 – Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Veterans Affairs Committee)

1) H.R. 1238 – Securing our Agriculture and Food Act (Sponsored by Rep. David Young / Homeland Security Committee)

2) H.R. 1294 – Reducing DHS Acquisition Cost Growth Act (Sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford / Homeland Security Committee)

3) H.R. 1297 – Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Technical Corrections Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman / Homeland Security Committee)

4) H.R. 1302 – Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

5) H.R. 1309 – TSA Administrator Modernization Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

6) H.R. 1353 – Transparency in Technological Acquisitions Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 1249 – DHS Multiyear Acquisition Strategy Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 1252 – DHS Acquisition Authorities Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 1365 – Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Innovation Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. J. Luis Correa / Homeland Security Committee)

Thursday, March 16:
H.R. 1259 – VA Accountability First Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Veterans Affairs Committee)

Friday, March 17:
H.R. 1367 – To improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Brad Wenstrup / Veterans Affairs Committee)

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Death Spiral

My brain is exploding. Watch this video. Then let's discuss.

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Chris Hayes was my hero last night when he did this interview. I can't even begin to talk about the actual details and content within the Republican's so-called Bill regarding repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. I'm far too caught up in the massive hypocrisy surrounding it.

Let's go back in time to when the ACA was in the process of being created in 2009. This article from The Washington Post gives a really good history of that time, including links, etc. But the bottom line is that Democrats worked on a new health care bill from early 2009 until it was passed through Congress and signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010. During that time it was debated, studied by committees, put through hearings, people died and new elections were held and the vote had to be held again, etc, etc. It was a mess of a time, if you recall. And it dragged on for ages.

Through it, Republicans were in an uproar that the bill was being forced on them and lacked discussion within Congress and with citizens. The line at the time was that the Bill was being rammed down their throats. (Read this article for a long list of sources which quote the Republican side using this particular phrasing.) They didn't agree with any of it and did everything they could to stop the process.

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Now Republicans have their big chance to make their own health care bill, something they've been dying to do for years. One would think after all these years of wanting to do this, they'd have some good ideas, done some studies, lined up some hearings and assessments ready to make the big improvements they have been talking about.

But so far, the talking points are not particularly compelling. In fact, mostly, their main point is that Obamacare is in a death spiral and imploding and we need something new. Even on the new website about their bill, the FIRST statement on the page is "Obamacare is hurting more people than it is helping, forcing Americans to buy insurance they don’t like, don’t need, and cannot afford."  It's not promoting or explaining what the new law will do, it's simply spreading more lies about what we currently have.

In the past couple of days, in lieu of any actual debate or discussion, (in the above video, Chris Hayes asks a Congressman from NJ FOUR times how many hearings Congress has held on this new version of a health care Bill, and he refused to answer the question each time) they've had a few marathon sessions in committee and held midnight votes to push the new bill through the Energy and Commerce committee, and the Ways and Means committee in record time.

BTW, Tom Reed voted yes on the Bill. He is quoted in the Olean Times Herald saying, “I stand for repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Reed reminded reporters during a telephone press conference Tuesday afternoon. “Obamacare is in a death spiral,” he said."

And now, the Bill is set to go to the Budget committee the middle of next week. Then could be on the House floor the following week. Then move to the Senate, and to Mr. Trump.


As I said above, I'm emotionally unable to dive into the details of this all yet, and it's hard to make out what actual positive substance there even is to the thing, but I keep coming back to the thought that if the Republicans thought a Bill they negotiated for more than a year was being rammed down their throats, how could a Bill effectively be debated and considered and voted on in less than three weeks?

But apparently that's plenty of time to produce a good Bill (some call it the World's Greatest HeathCare Plan 2017). Mr. Lance in the video above agrees. Despite the fact that about a minute earlier he said that the many-months-debated ACA was rammed down his throat.

It is the heart of hypocrisy. And the Republicans are a HUGE, extraordinary, the best ever example of that.

Thanks, Chris Hayes, for this awesome reporting.

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This article from VOX also shows the astounding hypocrisy we are seeing here.
And this article from CNN gives another clear timeline of the early days of ObamaCare.
This article from Media Matters is extremely detailed on all things Obamacare from that time period.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Financial Cost of the Repeal of the ACA on the 23rd

By Peter Keenan

As the days and weeks have passed since November 8th we have heard about the physical and emotional cost of the ACA repeal, but there has been very little discussion of the financial impact of the repeal on New York State and individual counties within the state. On January 4th, Governor Cuomo announced the impact of the potential ACA repeal in New York. The report highlighted over 2.7 million New Yorkers losing coverage, an estimated budget impact of $3.7 billion, New York residents potentially losing $250 million in Health Care Savings Credits used to lower monthly insurance premiums, and counties potentially losing over $595 million in direct spending use for the reduction of property taxes. Of all of these potential financial impacts, the loss of funds to help reduce property taxes could have devastating short and long term effects. Why is the loss of the almost $600 million in federal funds to lower property taxes important? In order to understand this we need to look at how New York State funds Medicaid services throughout the state.

In 2001, New York State implemented the Family Health Plus expansion. This increased Medicaid eligibility levels to 100% of poverty level for childless adults and 150% for adults with children under the age of 21. In 2001, the the New York State Court of Appeals decision -Aliessa v. Novello- extended Medicaid to legal adult immigrants otherwise eligible for the program (Aliessa v. Novello, 96 N.Y. 2d 418 (2001). In order to fund the expansion New York State was forced to increase property taxes. In the years between 2001 and 2005 the property tax rate grew an average of 6.7% annually. Both 2003 and 2004 had double digit increases in property tax. As counties across the state began to struggle with the increased Medicaid expense, the state introduced a 3% annual growth cap on Medicaid spending for each county. This growth cap was successful in lowering the increase in the property tax rate to 2.2% annually from 2006 - 2014. 

In 2010, the Affordable Healthcare Act went into effect and further expanded Medicaid in New York. This also included monies to help counties offset the rise in Medicaid costs and lowered property taxes while still providing health coverage for those that qualified. In 2015, the Federal Government provided $600 million to New York State as part of the ACA Medicaid. This funding was distributed from the state at the county level to help lower property taxes. The repeal of the ACA would mean the loss of that assistance.

The Medicaid expansion mandates would remain but the federal funding would be gone. Each county in New York would then be forced to raise property taxes again in order to keep funding the Medicaid mandates. This would have a negative impact on all property owners in the state by raising their property tax at levels similar to the large increases of 2003 and 2004. The continued rise of property taxes can not be sustainable and eventually would result in funding for Medicaid services to be reduced/cut or eventually defunded.

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As an example of the effects of a repeal of the ACA, I took a look at my home county Chemung. What I found out scared me to death. In 2012, Chemung County took $36 million in property tax revenue and spent $25 million on Medicaid services. That means that in 2012, Chemung County spent 70.3% of its property tax revenue to cover Medicaid services in the county. The repeal of the ACA will mean that Chemung County will lose 1.4 million in federal Medicaid funding that the county utilizes to keep property tax growth manageable .

As a homeowner with a family that gets our coverage from a Managed Medicaid plan through the exchange, we would be hit twice. My family would feel the loss of affordable health coverage and we would incur an increase in property taxes to cover the cost of local Medicaid services. In real life monthly dollar terms it means that my family would have to find an additional $400 to $500 a month if the ACA is repealed. For my family of 5, where I work for a non-profit, my wife is a stay at home mother, and our children are 5, 4, and 1, that may as well be a million dollars a month.

The financial repercussions of a repeal of the ACA will be felt by every property owner across the state immediately. Individuals who are receiving Medicaid services will lose those services and either be forced to purchase lesser coverage for more money or go without coverage. Either choice will result in less financial stability and less disposable income to purchase goods and services. The repeal of the ACA in both human and financial cost to New Yorkers in NY 23 is too high a price to pay for anyone.



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Peter Keenan and his wife Sarah live on the Southside of Elmira with their children Leo, Ollie, and Charlie. Peter has 20 years experience working in the non-profit human service field working with individuals with developmental disabilities/mental health diagnosis, inmates re-entering society, and at risk youth

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ways and Means Committee

By Lauren Faessler
As I fumble my way toward defining sustainable resistance for myself, I try on different hats to test what feels effective. Among the phone calls, postcards, meetings, and actions, I’m finding good information invaluable to feeling effective. While seeking information about Tom Reed’s impact and intentions, I started trying to better understand Tom Reed’s job. My suspicion is that information gathered by monitoring Tom Reed’s congressional committee work will provide ammunition and motivation for working to shape his representation for the next few years.
Congressional work is shaped, steered, monitored, resourced, and often determined in committee. The Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives website describes committee responsibilities:
Standing committees are permanent panels identified in Chamber rules, which also list the jurisdiction of each committee. Because they have legislative jurisdiction, standing committees consider bills and issues and recommend measures for consideration by the House. They also have oversight responsibilities to monitor agencies, programs, and activities within their jurisdictions, and in some cases in areas that cut across committee jurisdictions. Most standing committees recommend authorized levels of funds for government operations and for new and existing programs within their jurisdiction, but a few have other functions.
Most committees form subcommittees with legislative jurisdiction to consider and report bills in particular issues within the purview of the full committee. Committees may assign their subcommittees such specific tasks as the initial consideration of measures and oversight of laws and programs in their areas.

Image result for ways and means committee tom reedCommittees and their subcommittees determine which laws Congress sees and votes on; they identify problematic policies and propose solutions to Congress; they hold federal government personnel accountable in the areas of the committee’s jurisdiction, including the executive branch; and they manage budgeting within their jurisdiction. Woodrow Wilson once wrote, "It is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work." (Woodrow Wilson quote from this Wikipedia article, cited as (Woodrow Wilson, "Congressional Government", 1885, quoted in the JCOC Final Report. Archived December 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.))

So, what does this mean for Tom Reed’s work? He’s won his way on to one of the longest standing committees, The House Committee on Ways and Means.  There are 19 other committees covering jurisdictions like Rules, Budget, Ethics, and Oversight and Government Reform. The Committee on Ways and Means’ jurisdiction includes the following: (This is taken from the Committee on Ways and Means website, though the description is clearly 10 years old. The current congress is the 115th.)

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(1) The Committee on Ways and Means has the responsibility for raising the revenue required to finance the Federal Government. This includes individual and corporate income taxes, excise taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes, and other miscellaneous taxes.
(2) The Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over the authority of the Federal Government to borrow money.
(3) The Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over most of the programs authorized by the Social Security Act, which includes not only those programs that are normally referred to colloquially as Social Security but also social insurance programs and a whole series of grant-in-aid programs to State governments for a variety of purposes.  
(a) Old-age, survivors, and disability insurance (Title II)
(b) Medicare (Title XVIII)
(c) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Title XVI)
(d) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (part A of Title IV)
(e) Child support enforcement (part D of Title IV)
(f) Child welfare, foster care, and adoption assistance (parts B and E of Title IV)
(g) Unemployment compensation programs (Titles III, IX, and XII)
(h) Social services (Title XX)
(4) The Committee on Ways and Means has responsibility over legislation relating to tariffs, import trade, and trade negotiations. As the Committee with jurisdiction over revenue-raising measures, the Committee on Ways and Means thus evolved as the primary Committee responsible for international trade policy.
Tom Reed shapes policy, recommends legislation, and is responsible for the oversight of those policies, laws, and programs that raise, lower, impose, or repeal taxes, determine the nature of import trade and trade agreements like NAFTA, and determine the resources we have, as a society, to support the most vulnerable people in our communities. His three subcommittee memberships, Health, Human Resources, and Trade, give him a great amount of power over the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, Social Security, and trade agreements, to name a few.  
Tom Reed has direct responsibility for the future shape of the Better Way (A Better Way for Health Care Reform is the house Republican branding of their plan to repeal and replace the ACA.)  No one, other than his fellow committee and subcommittee members, has more influence on the details of repeal and replace in the House.  
Image result for ways and means trump taxesThe Ways and Means committee is one of three that have been refusing to request Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department (Marcos, Cristina. “Two Republicans Sign on to Effort Demanding Trump’s Tax Returns.” The Hill. 3 March 2017. Web 4 March 2017.) Reed asserts that he could never challenge the right to privacy that Trump, as a private citizen in the US, deserves (overheard at Allen Town Hall Town Meeting, 18 Feb. 2017). Imagine the impact that changing his mind might have.
Reed is more than a surrogate for the Trump administration.  Let’s hold him directly responsible for the outcomes of his policies and policy proposals.

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*You can track legislation in front of the Ways and Means committee here, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/committees/HSWM#.  
You can learn more about the fundraising weight that insurance companies and health professionals hold with Tom Reed here, https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00030949&cycle=2016#cont.
Here you can find transcripts from committee hearings. Not all committees provide them, but Ways and Means does.  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CHRG

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Lauren Faessler has been an educator in Central and Southern New York for 25 years. She earned a doctorate in 2014 and stopped writing then and there.  The 2016 election has somehow changed that too.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

This Week in the House - March 6

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Every Saturday, the Majority Leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, whose slogan is "A new day for American Conservatism," posts the schedule of Bills and Resolutions that the House will consider in the following week.


Monday, March 6th: No votes are expected in the House.

Tuesday, March 7th:
1) H.R. ____ – To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the Faleomavaega Eni Fa’aua’a Hunkin VA Clinic (Sponsored by Rep. Amata Coleman Radewagen / Veterans Affairs Committee)

2) H.R. 1214 – Disaster SAVE Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

3) H.R. 375 – To designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 719 Church Street in Nashville, Tennessee, as the Fred D. Thompson Federal Building and United States Courthouse (Sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

4) H.R. 1117 – To require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to submit a report regarding certain plans regarding assistance to applicants and grantees during the response to an emergency or disaster (Sponsored by Rep. Vicky Hartzler / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

5) H.R. 1174 – Fairness For Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

6) H.R. 654 – Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

7) S. 442 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

Wednesday, March 8th:
H.R. 1301 – Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen / Appropriations Committee)

1) H.R. 132 – Arbuckle Project Maintenance Complex and District Office Conveyance Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 648 – To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to amend the Definite Plan Report for the Seedskadee Project to enable the use of the active capacity of the Fontenelle Reservoir (Sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney / Natural Resources Committee)

3) H.R. 267 – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Lewis / Natural Resources Committee)

Thursday, March 9th:
H.R. 725 – Innocent Party Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ken Buck / Judiciary Committee)

H.R. 985 – Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Judiciary Committee)

Friday, March 10th:
H.R. 720 – Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee)