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Kuster, Shea-Porter Vote Against Continuing Resolution For Good Reasons

In a flurry of activity yesterday, the U.S. House passed yet another continuing resolution to keep the government open for another 30 days.  The bill passed by a vote of 230-197.

Many of the House Democrats opposed this short term resolution.  Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) voted against the bill and released the following:

“Short-term funding measures are no way to run government. It’s disappointing that Congressional Republicans are unwilling to sit down and work across the aisle to provide long-term certainty for important programs that Granite State families rely on. Their short-term funding measure fails to address critical needs, including resources to combat the opioid epidemic, support our veterans, fund our community health centers, and protect young Dreamers. It’s time Congressional Republicans rolled up their sleeves and sat down with Democrats to develop a responsible long-term budget that will produce real results for the American people.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) also opposed the continuing resolution and released the following:

“I refuse to join House Republicans in abandoning the fundamental tasks of governing by kicking the can down the road yet again on the most basic responsibility we have, funding the government. In a hearing this afternoon, Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, said, ‘I can’t in good conscience testify before Congress about naval power without mentioning the toxic and corrosive effect of nine years of continuing resolutions and years under the Budget Control Act…The absence of stable and adequate funding for defense makes everything that our sailors and their commanders do harder. On a scale of one to ten, the importance of stable and adequate funding scores an 11.’

“This is now the fourth extension, and it is time to end the harmful cycle of lurching between short-term funding bills with the now monthly threat of a government shutdown.

“This bill fails to:

  • Increase resources directed at the opioid epidemic fight
  • Provide predictable funding for our military and veterans’ access to health care
  • Help disaster-stricken communities
  • Extend funding for community health centers

“These monthly failures to govern are simply unacceptable, and they need to end. I will continue to stand up for Granite Staters, who are sick and tired of the constant dysfunction and excuses. We need to work together to find long-term solutions to the critical issues facing our nation, instead of kicking the can down the road one month at a time.”

 

This is not how a government is intended to work.  We can have differences in our funding priorities, but then we sit down and hash out our differences like adults.  Congress needs to grow up and do what is best for the country and pass a serious multi-year budget that meets the needs of the government and the people.

Congresswomen Kuster and Shea-Porter Push For A Return Of Net Neutrality

Today, Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Annie Kuster (NH-02)  announced her support for a Congressional Review Act resolution sponsored by Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14) to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to reverse the Open Internet Order, which regulated Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to ensure net neutrality.

“We can’t stand by as the FCC and big corporations steal our right to equal access to the Internet,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “I am cosponsoring this resolution because we need to reverse the FCC’s shameful repeal of net neutrality protections. The FCC’s decision will allow Internet service providers to favor big businesses over startups, hurting New Hampshire innovators; it needs to be stopped.”

“The message I’ve heard from thousands of Granite Staters has been abundantly clear, Congress should overturn the FCC’s misguided proposal to repeal net neutrality protections,” said Kuster. “It is imperative that New Hampshire consumers and small businesses are able to maintain the freedom to access internet services without obstruction from Internet Service Providers.  To compete in a 21st Century economy, we must ensure that the internet allows for a free exchange of ideas, and this common sense legislation would pave the way for a simple up or down vote in Congress to restore net neutrality protections for all Americans.”

The resolution has the support of 50 Senators, just one vote shy of what would be needed to reverse the FCC’s decision using Congressional Review Act procedures.

Last month, Shea-Porter sent a letter with the New Hampshire congressional delegation to New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Governor Chris Sununu, urging them to take action to protect Granite State consumers and small businesses from the negative impacts of the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections. Shea-Porter and 118 colleagues also sent a letter asking FCC Chairman Pai to delay the scheduled net neutrality vote due to public comment irregularities.

NH Delegation Says “NO” To Offshore Drilling

New England Coastline Protection Act would protect seacoast communities from dangerous Trump Administration proposal to allow drilling in the North Atlantic region

Global Santa Fe Rig 140 (Image by Steven Straiton FLICR CC)

Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Annie Kuster (NH-02) today co-introduced legislation with Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01) which would prohibit oil and gas drilling off the coasts of New Hampshire and other New England states.

“President Trump’s drilling proposal puts our seacoast communities at risk,” said Shea-Porter. “Any disaster caused by offshore extraction would devastate our fishing and tourism industries. We can’t let that happen. That’s why I am co-introducing legislation today that would stop this dangerous policy by prohibiting drilling off our coast.”

“Protecting our seacoast communities from the impact of offshore drilling operations is crucial to defending our environment and economy,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The Administration’s proposal to vastly expand drilling operations has been met with bipartisan opposition and a waiver has already been issued to the state of Florida. New Hampshire and New England communities deserve the same certainty that the health and productivity of their shores will not be jeopardized.”

The New England Coastline Protection Act would prohibit oil and gas extraction activities in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

After submitting the legislation, the Congresswomen were joined by Senators Shaheen and Hassan in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in strong opposition to the Trump Administration proposal to allow drilling off New Hampshire’s coast.

“This reckless proposal poses a significant risk to seacoast communities in New Hampshire and would negatively affect marine ecosystems and our environment,” the delegation wrote. “Furthermore, this expansion threatens the vitality and economic interests of New Hampshire’s commercial fishing industry that depends on access to clean and healthy oceans… As your Department begins to accept public comments in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, we urge you to listen to the voices of our constituents and remove the New Hampshire coastline from this misguided proposal.”

The full text of the delegation’s letter can be accessed here and is below.

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write in strong opposition to your announcement on Thursday, January 4th, that the Department of the Interior would move forward with the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019 – 2024, a proposal that would allow lease sales for offshore oil and gas drilling in the North Atlantic region.  We also take issue with your decision to exempt only Florida from expanded offshore drilling, and request that New Hampshire similarly be immediately exempted from any new oil and gas leases as part of this proposed plan. This reckless proposal poses a significant risk to seacoast communities in New Hampshire and would negatively affect marine ecosystems and our environment. Furthermore, this expansion threatens the vitality and economic interests of New Hampshire’s commercial fishing industry that depends on access to clean and healthy oceans.

The proposed drilling plan offered by your department aims to advance the interests of the oil and gas industry at the expense of our nation’s most treasured oceanic resources.  At a time when America needs to move towards a clean energy economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels, your department’s proposal to rapidly expand oil and gas exploration is a move in the wrong direction and fails to consider the rising ocean levels and marine life migrations that have been attributed to climate change.

New Hampshire is home to an expansive, yet delicate commercial fishing industry that has supported small boat fisherman for centuries. The announcement from your department has the potential to significantly disrupt the very nature of these enterprises and jeopardizes the economic livelihood of fishermen in New Hampshire.  Furthermore, New Hampshire’s seacoast offers numerous tourist attractions that support small businesses and contribute millions of dollars in economic activity to our communities. The threat of an oil spill as a result of renewed drilling activity would put jobs at risk and destroy our pristine coastline that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every single year.

The North Atlantic region has no existing lease sales for oil and gas development, and there have been no sales along the entire Atlantic seaboard since 1983. Granite Staters would like to keep it that way. As your Department begins to accept public comments in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, we urge you to listen to the voices of our constituents and remove the New Hampshire coastline from this misguided proposal. Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your response.

Kuster And Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Releases Legislative Agenda for 2018

January 10, 2018 – Washington, DC – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) stands with members of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force to announce the 2018 legislative agenda

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force led by Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) released its legislative agenda for 2018. The agenda includes commonsense, bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic by supporting prevention, treatment, recovery, and law enforcement efforts. Last November, Congresswoman Kuster’s legislation the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act, an item on the agenda for the 115th Congress, was signed into law.

The bills included in the agenda include Jessie’s Law, the STOP OD Act, the Addiction Recovery Through Family Health Accounts Act, Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act, Road to Recovery Act, the INTERDICT Act, TREAT Act, the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act, the CRIB Act, and the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act, Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, Improve Addiction Education Act, Opioid Addiction Prevention Act, Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act, MONITOR Act, and Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act

Full details of the legislative agenda are available here.

The co-chairs of the Task Force were joined in today’s announcement by Representatives Phil Roe (R-TN), Katherine Clark (D-MA), David Joyce (R-OH), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Marcy Kaptur  (D-OH), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), and additional Task Force Members.

“The opioid epidemic has had a serious impact on communities and families throughout New Hampshire, but no corner of the country has been untouched,” saidCongresswoman Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Task Force. “The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force represents 100 Members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, who are standing together to take real action to stem the tide of this crisis. Our Task Force has successfully pushed for action in Congress to address the opioid epidemic. The agenda we’re outlining today comprises bipartisan, commonsense solutions that will improve prevention, expand access to treatment and recovery services, and bolster support for law enforcement. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these proposals.”

“As we begin the New Year, the Bipartisan Task Force remains even more committed to fighting the opioid epidemic that has ravaged so many communities and families across the country,” said Congressman Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the Task Force. “Our agenda represents the important balance of showing compassion for those suffering with substance abuse, while stopping the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods. It’s a crucial step in this fight.  Since its creation, the Bipartisan Task Force has grown to 100 members and has been able to successfully advocate against drastic cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and, shape and advance CARA and the 21st Century Cures Act through Congress. We will continue to build on these accomplishments and stand together in our fight against substance abuse.”

“In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, including dozens right here in our community,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, vice-chair of the Task Force. “It’s clear this epidemic is destroying lives and costing our nation precious resources. While our Task Force has taken great strides in increasing awareness of, and providing legislative solutions to, opioid addiction, there is still work to be done. Fighting back against this epidemic requires the clear, bipartisan approach outlined in this agenda; one that responds to the real-world concerns expressed by local lawmakers, community leaders and healthcare professionals across the country who endeavor to tackle this crisis each day.”

“The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force continues to stand together offering commonsense legislative solutions to curb the opioid epidemic because one preventable death is too many,” said Congressman Donald Norcross, vice-chair of the Task Force. “In New Jersey, deaths from heroin and fentanyl overdoses more than tripled in the last five years. That’s tragic and unacceptable. We must invest time, effort and money to save lives. Every delay means we’ll lose another child, grandchild, friend or neighbor to the disease of addiction.”

House Republicans Push Through Their Tax Hike On Middle Class Families

Last night, straight down party lines, Republicans voted to give millionaires and billionaires a massive tax cut and to raise taxes on millions of hard working Americans.

“Today’s vote is a missed opportunity to deliver the tax reform we need for middle class families and small businesses,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “I strongly support reform that starts with the goal of providing tax relief for those in the economy who need it most. This bill is little more than a giveaway to big corporate interests and wealthy individuals while creating losers among many middle class families who will see their taxes increase in the coming years.”

“The tax bill that House Republicans passed today seeks to steal from the vast majority of Americans to benefit the very few. This is an attack on our economic security and on the fabric of our nation,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “House Republicans’ tax scam is loaded with provisions to help the wealthiest: it eliminates the estate tax, which will only be paid by an estimated 5,500 super-wealthy Americans this year, and slashes the corporate tax rate claimed by the biggest businesses. Meanwhile, it raises taxes on many middle-class families, and it sets small benefits for working families to expire in five years – while making cuts for corporations permanent. And make no mistake about it: these cuts will take money away from needed national security investments at this dangerous moment in time.”

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, confirmed Shea-Porter’s claim by stating, “12 percent of taxpayers would pay more in 2019 and 13 percent would pay more in 2027.” These increases unfairly hit middle class families.

This tax increase to the middle class comes primarily from the loss of “itemized deductions” that allow taxpayers to deduct things like mortgage interest, state and local taxes, student loan interest, qualifying work related expenses, and medical expenses.

“One reason for the variation across states is that taxpayers who live in places with higher state and local taxes may be more heavily impacted because those taxes would no longer be deductible on federal tax returns,” ITEP added.

“The bill the House approved today hurts older Americans now and in the future,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Eliminating the medical expense deduction means it will be harder for families with high medical expenses, most of whom are seniors, to make ends meet. The House Republican tax bill axes deductions that help working people so it can give more to the wealthiest.”

“The wealthy and corporations do not need these tax breaks. The vast majority of Americans understand that trickle-down economics does not work, and they disapprove of this plan. Retirees and working Americans know who this plan helps and who it hurts. And they will remember this when they vote in 2018,” Fiesta concluded.

Shea-Porter added, “This bill eliminates the deduction for high medical expenses claimed by over 40,000 Granite Staters and the student loan interest deduction that helps people saddled with student debt. It even takes away the modest $250 above-the-line deduction I fought to make permanent for almost 20,000 New Hampshire teachers – while keeping the golf course tax loophole. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the plan would explode the deficit by $1.7 trillion, triggering automatic cuts to Medicare. We all know our tax code desperately needs reform – but those reforms need to help the working people who are already losing out under our tax code, not give even more to the wealthiest 1% and the biggest corporations.”

The AFL-CIO says the bill is a “job killer” and rewards corporations for offshoring American jobs. Under the House proposal “U.S. tax rate on offshore profits from 35% to 0%,” creating a subsidy for outsourcing jobs that would cost taxpayers “$208 billion over 10 years.”

In their letter of opposition to the proposed tax plan, William Samuel, Director

Government Affairs Department at the AFL-CIO, called the proposal the “poster child for the failed ‘trickle-down’ economic theory that has never worked and has repeatedly stuck working people with the tab for tax giveaways for millionaires, big corporations, and Wall Street.”

Republicans are trying to pull the wool over our eyes in this massive tax scam. The plan would slash the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% and repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax on “pass-through” businesses. A couple of examples of a “pass through” business are “small businesses” like hedge funds, law firms, realty investment companies, and some large corporations like Bechtel construction (the 9th largest single owned business in the US). Without the Alternative Minimum Tax these “pass through” businesses would not be required to pay any federal taxes at all.

NBC News is reporting “Trump and his heirs potentially could save more than $1 billion overall under the GOP tax proposal that the House of Representatives passed Thursday,” though he continues to say that the plan will not benefit him.

The progressive coalition, Not One Penny, supports tax reforms but not one penny in reductions to “millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.”

“The tax bill that passed the House today is an affront to the people that our leaders in Washington claim to represent. The GOP voted to cut taxes for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations, inevitably forcing cuts to programs working families depend on like Medicaid, Medicare, public education, and Social Security. While passing the largest middle-class tax hike in a generation, the GOP said ‘no thanks’ to helping working families this Thanksgiving,” said Not One Penny spokesman Tim Hogan. “The tax proposal that passed today is wildly unpopular with a majority of Americans, and voters won’t forget those who enabled this hypocrisy. Republicans’ vote today is one that will haunt them in the weeks and months ahead.”

Over the last month, in mobilizing against Republicans’ disastrous tax plan, the Not One Penny coalition has coordinated more than a hundred events and actions across the country to hold congressional Republicans accountable for pushing tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of working families.

Advocates and activists continue to mobilize in opposition to Republicans’ tax scam. From hundreds gathering together at rallies alongside Leaders Pelosi and Schumer, Members of Congress, and progressive allies on November 1 and November 15, to local grassroots activity across the country, Americans will continue to resist this toxic tax plan.

“Progressive groups have come together to prevent Republicans from rigging the system even further for the wealthy and well-connected, and we will not quit until this taxpayer-funded giveaway to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations is stopped dead in its tracks. After months of activity, we continue to mobilize thousands of activists to stop Republicans attempts to raise taxes on middle-class families. Congressional Republicans should take note: we will hold you accountable for every vote you take that threatens the health and financial security of your constituents,” Hogan added.

“This bill has always been about giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, paid for by the rest of us — and our groups have been fired up about that from the beginning,” said Ezra Levin, Co-Executive Director of Indivisible, a member of the Not One Penny coalition. “Even before this tax fight became a health care fight, we had over 100 events in every corner of this country to oppose the Trump Tax Scam. Now that Republicans have explicitly included ACA repeal, our groups are even more energized than before.”

The bill now moves to the Senate where it is sure to face stiff opposition, especially after the news that Senator McConnell added the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to their tax plan.

Should-be Republican supporters are beginning to defect from the GOP tax plan because of the disastrous impact it would have on the American economy and the harm it would have on millions of middle-class families. Opposition to the plan includes:

  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who said the plan benefits corporations over small businesses, and he finds the process being used to rush the bill “offensive.”
  • Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said, “I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt by opting for short-term fixes while ignoring long-term problems for taxpayers and the economy.”
  • MaineSenator Susan Collins said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea from either a political or policy perspective.” Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said, “If I believe it’s going to add to the deficit, I’m not going to vote for it.”
  • Oklahoma Senator James Lankfordsaid, “It’s one thing to be able to cut taxes. It’s another thing to say how are we going to deal with our debt and deficit.”
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruzsaid, “Right now, they don’t have my vote.”

Make sure to let your Senators know how you feel about this new proposal. The Senate Democrats are unanimous against the bill but in order to ensure this bill never reaches the President’s desk we need to get at least three Republicans to vote it down.

“We need bipartisan tax reform that simplifies our tax code to help small businesses and delivers meaningful relief to middle-class families. Sadly, the tax bill approved last night is a partisan effort that doesn’t meet any of those goals,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bill would add over one and a half trillion dollars to our national debt and hurt Granite State students, seniors and working families, all to provide tax cuts to the very wealthy and large corporations. I stand ready to work with Republicans and Democrats to reform our tax code, but we need a bill that’s fiscally responsible, helps grow our economy and prioritizes the middle class.”

Kuster And Bipartisan Legislators Introduce Legislation Addressing Sexual Harassment In Congress

Rep. Speier, Sen. Gillibrand & Reps. Kuster, Costello and Poliquin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent & Respond to Sexual Harassment in Congress

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Representatives Ryan Costello (R-PA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) introduced bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in Congress. The Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act will require more transparency, overhaul the flawed complaint process, and provide better support for victims and whistleblowers. Additionally, both the House and Senate bills will require mandatory annual training for Members and staff, implement climate surveys to show the true scope of this problem, give interns and fellows the same protections as full-time staff, and end forced mediation.

“In 1995, Congress created the Office of Congressional Compliance to protect itself from being exposed, and it has been remarkably successful. Twenty years later, 260 settlements and more than $15 million have permanently silenced victims of all types of workplace discrimination,” said Rep. Speier. “Zero tolerance is meaningless unless it is backed up with enforcement and accountability. Today, I am proud that my colleagues in the House and the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, are joining me to end the era of impunity for disgraceful behavior and to protect the survivors.”

“We need to create a workplace climate where our staff members can come in and do their jobs without having to worry about being harassed – and if it does happen, they should be able to report the incidents without fear of retaliation, and without having to fear that it will ruin their careers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Congress should never be above the law, Congress should not play by their own set of rules, and as elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards – not the lowest. This needs to change. We need accountability and we need transparency. We need reform, and we need it now. Congress needs to set a better example, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this fight.”

“While many, if not most, Congressional offices, mine included, have policies in place regarding sexual harassment, this legislation will require annual sexual harassment training, and bring greater transparency and accountability to procedures for filing and investigating a complaint,” said Rep. Costello. “It is appropriate for the federal government to lead on this issue. This bill is an important step forward in supporting a professional work environment, and I hope to see it signed into law.”

“If we’re going to confront the challenge of sexual assault and harassment, we need to start with lawmakers and people in power,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In recent months there has been a national groundswell of people coming forward to share their stories. This powerful conversation is letting others know that the experience of sexual harassment and violence is sadly all too common. As a young staffer I was assaulted by a guest of the Congress and had no training for how to respond, who to turn to, or what my rights were. This legislation is an important part of the conversation that will lead to real change in the way the House of Representatives responds to sexual harassment. I’m committed to continuing to work across the aisle to foster safer environments in all workplaces, on college campuses, in our military, and throughout our communities.”

“Every employee should always feel safe and comfortable in their own workplace, and it’s past time that Congress acts to ensure the employees in the Legislative Branch have the support to act on and prevent sexual harassment,” said Congressman Poliquin. “I applaud Congresswoman Speier for her bravery in bringing this issue to the forefront and am proud to work across the aisle and across the Capitol to make these necessary fixes. There can be no tolerance of any kind for sexual harassment anywhere—period.”

Earlier this month, Reps. Speier (D-CA), Costello (R-PA), Brady (D-PA), and Poliquin (R-ME) introduced the bipartisan H.Res. 604, the CEASE Resolution. It would require all members and staff of the House of Representatives to undergo annual sexual harassment prevention and response training. On Tuesday, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that House members and their staff will now be required to undergo mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training. Last week, the Senate passed a resolution instituting similar requirements.

A copy of the bill text, and a section-by-section summary of the bill are attached to this release.

METOO Congress Bill Text FINAL (002)
FINAL Section by Section ME TOO CONGRESS (004)

 

NH Delegation Questions EPA on Public Disclosure of Risks from PFOA and PFOS

Washington, DC – On Friday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) regarding reports in a recent New York Times article that described the EPA’s efforts to weaken chemical safety regulations that could affect access to public information on the risks of emerging contaminants, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), chemical materials that have contaminated drinking water in several New Hampshire communities.

“We are deeply troubled by reports and an October 21st 2017 New York Times article that described how in spite of objections from scientists and administrators in multiple offices within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), political appointees at the agency weakened recent regulations promulgated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation’s principal chemical safety law. We are concerned that these actions not only ignore Congressional intent but may also deprive Granite Staters of critical information about the risks that chemical materials, particularly perfluorinated compounds, pose to their families’ health,” wrote the delegation.

The delegation continued, “In particular, we take issue with the reversal of EPA’s approach to a chemical substance’s ‘condition of use’…This change has far-reaching consequences and may limit the agency’s evaluation of legacy chemicals including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).”

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) like PFOA and PFOS have emerged as a widespread contamination in drinking water sources in several southern New Hampshire towns and were responsible for the closing of a major water supply well located at the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth. While the health effects of these chemicals are still being determined, studies have linked PFC exposure to developmental damage, certain cancers and immune system dysfunction.

In the letter, the delegation questions what effect the new rules will have on tracking the health consequences of PFOA and PFOS and therefore appropriately regulate these harmful materials.

Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Shea-Porter secured amendments to their respective chambers’ annual defense authorization bill that establishes the first-ever nationwide study on the human health effects of those exposed to PFCs in their drinking water. Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen joined with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the bipartisan Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, which addresses barriers that limit the EPA response to emerging contaminants. Additionally, as the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen included a provision in the subcommittee’s annual appropriations bill to identify research gaps in addressing the potential health implications associated with exposure to emerging contaminants. The House unanimously adopted an amendment written by Congresswoman Shea-Porter appropriating $7 million to launch the national health impact study authorized in the House and Senate-passed defense bills.

As Governor of New Hampshire, Senator Hassan urged the EPA to set a lifetime health advisory for certain PFCs to help states assess the safety of drinking water. In addition, then-Governor Hassan worked with state agencies, federal partners, and residents in the area to make blood tests available to everyone potentially exposed to PFCs, as well as to raise awareness about the health risks of these emerging contaminants and to expand monitoring of wells outside of the Coakley landfill footprint. Furthermore, Senator Hassan formed the Governor’s Task Force on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster to help create an organized response to the health and environmental concerns that the Seacoast pediatric cancer cluster has raised. In the Senate, Senator Hassan has built on those efforts, cosponsoring legislation that requires the EPA to develop a maximum contaminant level for perfluorinated compounds, 1,4 dioxane, and perchlorate in public water systems across America within two years of the bill’s enactment. Both Senator Hassan and Senator Shaheen urged the U.S. Air Force to clean up water supplies at the former Pease Air Force Base that are contaminated with PFCs.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan have worked tirelessly to hold the EPA accountable for actions that undermine efforts to inform the public about the potential health implications caused by exposure to emerging contaminants. Earlier this month, the senators sent a letter to Acting Administrator Deborah Szaro questioning the timing of the EPA’s disclosurethat determined the Coakley Landfill does not pose an “unacceptable human health risk.” Last week, the EPA responded to the senators’ letter. Senators Shaheen and Hassan will continue to demand much needed answers from the EPA on behalf of New Hampshire families.

The letter to Administrator Pruitt can be read here and below.

10-27-17_NH delegation letter to EPA on TSCA

Trump’s Sabotage Of The Affordable Care Act Will Hurt New Hampshire Families

Trump’s ACA Sabotage, Executive Order Will Gut Protections, Force Sickest to Pay Skyrocketing Prices, Destabilize Health Care for New Hampshire Families

Following an Executive Order that will increase junk insurance plans, news follows that President Trump will immediately end cost-sharing payments and destabilize health insurance markets

Concord, NH Yesterday, President Trump issued a new executive order that will expand the availability of junk insurance plans in a direct attempt to trigger the collapse of the entire private health insurance market and destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last night, the Trump administration signaled that it would also immediately end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, which analysts and advocates agree will destabilize health insurance markets in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated back in August that ending cost-sharing reductions would increase insurance premiums by 20% next year alone, effectively kick a million Americans off insurance, and add $194 billion to the deficit.

“These partisan, political acts are part of Trump’s relentless campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the contraceptive coverage mandate,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “These actions threaten the collapse of the entire individual health insurance market and leave our sick and most vulnerable to pay the price.”

“For years, Trump and Congressional Republicans have called for the repeal of the health care law without offering any viable replacement. Trump is now bent on destroying the one health care law that allowed millions of Americans to gain health insurance and improved coverage for essential health care benefits like maternity, mental health, and prescription drugs. Trump is stripping these important consumer protections and ending critical payments that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Any problems in our health care system from here on out rest solely at the feet of President Trump and other politicians who have created instability and skyrocketing premiums, and allowed the sale of junk plans without the essential health coverage people need when they are sick,” Rice-Hawkins added.

“Last night, Trumpcare became a reality. By refusing to continue cost-sharing reduction payments, President Trump has committed his most shameful act of sabotage on the insurance markets, threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans and making premiums skyrocket for millions more,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.  “Governor Sununu’s self-proclaimed closeness with Trump and his administration hasn’t yielded any help for New Hampshire. Instead, Sununu’s constant praise and support of Trump is starting to look like blind flattery.”

Buckley continued, “Make no mistake, Governor Sununu has precipitated Trump’s sabotage by fueling the flames of ACA repeal,  opposing Medicaid expansion, supporting various forms of Trumpcare, proposing Medicaid block grants, rejecting a reinsurance program, and refusing to join a bipartisan group of governors in calling for the protection of key health care protections. Rather than actively campaigning against dangerous Republican health care ideas, Sununu has either stayed silent or belatedly voiced his opposition once and disappeared. That is not leadership. Sununu is engaging in political calculation when Granite Staters need its governor the most.”

In a letter to President Trump in August, Governor Chris Sununu called for Trump to continue the cost sharing reduction payments. One of the main requests in the letter:

“Commit to funding CSR reimbursements for 2017 and 2018: Carriers calculate their rates far in advance, so continued uncertainty about the reimbursements fuel dramatic increases and could lead them to exit the market. This hurts consumers – most of all, those who cannot get coverage through work and do not qualify for federal subsidies. While I am sympathetic to the argument that these payments are a subsidy, to withhold them at this late date as carriers are trying to calculate rates is resulting in significant instability and further rate increases and fewer options.”

“Despite the American people’s rejection of the Affordable Care Act repeal, this new order is part of a concerted effort by the Trump administration to unravel the law’s patient protections and to destabilize healthcare marketplaces,” said Senator Shaheen. “This order only introduces more unnecessary chaos into our healthcare system, which undermines the healthcare that Granite Staters, and all Americans, depend on. The President must abandon these political efforts to destabilize the ACA, and finally prioritize working with Congress to address and fix this manufactured crisis. There are Republicans and Democrats who are ready to move forward with bipartisan legislation that will provide stability in the insurance marketplace, increase access to care and lower cost sharing.”

Senator Shaheen is leading efforts in the Senate to provide marketplace stability by permanently continuing and increasing eligibility for cost-sharing reduction payments. Her bill, the Marketplace Certainty Act, would make cost-sharing reduction payments permanent and expand eligibility to more working Americans.

“By deciding to stop payments for so-called cost-sharing reductions – which help lower deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses – President Trump is cruelly and intentionally raising health care costs for millions of Americans,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that stopping these payments would cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket for millions of Americans while also ballooning the federal deficit, yet the President moved forward with this plan out of political spite. I have pushed for months to get Congress to act to provide certainty around these payments and help block the Trump Administration’s blatant sabotage attempts, and now is the time to finally stop this madness.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said that Trump should be “ashamed” for his actions that “will torpedo the individual insurance market”

“He is right to be so ashamed of this spiteful action he would only announce it in the dead of night. Stopping these payments won’t just hurt the lower-income people whose out-of-pocket costs are defrayed by CSRs, it will also hurt every one of the millions of Americans who buy their own coverage. That’s because insurance companies say they are going to charge everyone more to make up for the lost funding. Congress must act immediately to fund CSRs and protect our constituents from Trump’s vengeful and destructive actions.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also spoke out against the order.

“President Trump’s announcement today sadly continues to take us in the wrong direction on health care. During the last several months, I have been encouraged by conversations with both Republicans and Democrats about how we can address the ongoing challenges with the Affordable Care Act.  I believe that there are areas where we can all agree on solutions to fix issues faced by some Americans. Today’s executive order simply reverts back to the failed repeal and replace mantra. This executive order will result in higher costs to consumers and less access to health care for Granite State families. I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to look for commonsense solutions to stabilize the individual marketplace and strengthen our health care system.”

This executive order is not about helping people gain insurance coverage it is outright sabotage.  Millions of hard working Americans will be harmed by this executive order.  Some will lose their coverage. Some will be force to go without coverage because the costs are too high. Some will be forced to pay outrageously high premiums as they have no other option for coverage.

The American People spoke out loud and clear against the Republican healthcare plan. The Senate rejected the measure over and over because even some Republicans know that this plan will due massive harm to the American people.  But President Trump does not care about the will of the people, he is running the country like a unhinged tyrant.


UPDATED to include statement from NH Democratic Leadership

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, Senate Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald issued the following joint statement:

“President Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments will dramatically hurt New Hampshire families’ ability to afford and access the health insurance they need. The Trump administration’s varied attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its protections are shameful and it is abundantly clear that this effort is an attempt to settle a political score rather than act in the best interest of the American people.

Today, we are calling on Governor Sununu and New Hampshire’s Republican legislative leaders to pass a reinsurance program to provide as much relief as possible to Granite Staters who will see premiums go up an average of 20% next year as a result of President Trump’s decision to cancel CSR payments. We are also calling on New Hampshire’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join Attorneys General across the country who are promising to sue the Trump administration to protect cost-sharing reductions. We will work with anyone, anywhere to make sure Granite Staters continue to see the protections and guarantees they have received under the Affordable Care Act and fight back against President Trump’s destructive sabotage.”

The Republican Sabotage Of Healthcare

We can all agree that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect but it was a monumental step in the right direction at a time when insurance companies were raking in record profits, jacking up rates by double digits, making the cost of insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans.

Since the ACA passed, Republicans have been trying to repeal it. Over the last eight years, Republicans have made more than 60 attempts to repeal the bill and only in the last six months have they ever offered any type of replacement.

Their latest replacement plan, that was ironically killed by three moderate Republicans in the Senate, would have kicked an estimated 32 million Americans off of their healthcare plans and would have transitioned Medicaid into a block grant system.  Ending Medicaid would have left millions of children, seniors, and the disabled without out any coverage at all.

Medicaid is the largest single provider of insurance in the country.  Nearly 40% of all child births in New Hampshire are covered by Medicaid.  Medicaid covers the cost for millions of disabled Americans who use funds to live in their own homes.  This is why dozens of ADAPT (Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today) members protested during the Senate hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill.

“Graham-Cassidy is the worst bill yet that Republicans have come up with to repeal Obamacare. This wasn’t what they campaigned on; they didn’t campaign to strip away the services that disabled people and seniors rely on to live in the community,” said Bruce Darling, an organizer with ADAPT. “They campaigned on fixing Obamacare and I don’t understand why they continue to target our community with cuts that will steal disabled lives instead of actually fixing anything.”

Cuts to Medicaid funding will fall first and hardest on community based services, forcing disabled people into institutions which will be underfunded hives of abuse, neglect, and human misery.

“The cuts to Medicaid funding are cruel and un-American,” said Dawn Russell, ADAPT organizer from Denver Colorado. “Forcing disabled people and seniors into institutions just to pay for tax cuts, which is what this bill does, is not equality. It’s not liberty. Graham-Cassidy is a policy for a much crueler and meaner country than this one, and the people who support it should be ashamed of themselves.”

Recently, Senator Hassan shared the story of Bodhi Bhattari, a Concord boy who experiences spinal muscular atrophy and needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in life-saving drugs every year. Bodhi’s mother, Deodonne Bhattarai, told WMUR that under the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare proposal, “If we sold our house, we could probably keep him alive for another year.”

Now, the New Hampshire Department of Insurance estimates that 25,000 people, who get their insurance from the healthcare exchange, will see a 52% increase.

“Among 97,000 people in the individual insurance market, the 74 percent who either get federal subsidies or are part of the expanded Medicaid program will likely see their premiums drop or remain flat in 2018. But the 26 percent who pay the full cost will see sharp increases,” wrote Holly Ramer of the Associated Press.

The news of this dramatic increase on those trying to provide healthcare for their families, outraged legislators.

“I am outraged that some middle-class New Hampshire families will suffer huge premium hikes next year because of the chaos D.C. Republicans have created in the individual insurance market,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  “This is exactly why I spent the past year urging my colleagues to pass bipartisan marketplace stabilization legislation, which would have provided insurers with needed certainty, and also why Congress should pass my bill, the Medicare You Can Opt Into Act, and make sure every American has an affordable option that’s not vulnerable to profit-driven rate hikes.”

“That said, let me be clear: thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion, New Hampshire’s uninsured rate is at an all-time low, and I will not allow Republican state officials to use the disruption their party has caused in the individual market as justification to jeopardize that progress by ending an essential program that covers over 50,000 people in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter added.

In the US Senate, Senator Shaheen has been working to avoid these rate hikes. Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen introduced the Marketplace Certainty Act to permanently appropriate payments for cost-sharing reductions to help stabilize state marketplaces and expand eligibility for hard-working Americans who need help paying their premiums.

“These rate increases for next year would be devastating, yet have always been avoidable,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This administration has followed through on President Trump’s threat to sabotage healthcare marketplaces as leverage to repeal the Affordable Care Act. New Hampshire families are now forced to pay the price for the Trump administration’s shameful behavior. I have been pleading with Republican leadership to allow bipartisan efforts to stabilize the healthcare marketplace to move forward, but instead, they chose to use this valuable time to make another attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act—a law that has helped tens of thousands of Granite Staters gain access to healthcare coverage. Republicans must return to the negotiating table and work with Democrats to craft bipartisan legislation that would stabilize the marketplaces. We need to work together to mitigate the harm caused by the Administration and help working families access quality and affordable insurance.”

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Maggie Hassan participated this month in bipartisan health care hearings focused on stabilizing the individual health insurance market and lowering costs.

At a press conference after the defeat of the Graham-Cassidy bill, Senator Hassan said:

“We know that there is more to do on health care. There isn’t a Democrat here who doesn’t know that there are improvements we need to make. I am committed to working with members of both parties on the HELP Committee and throughout the United States Senate to come together and find ways in the short-term to stabilize our markets and lower costs. We have to address pharmaceutical costs. We have to address health care outcomes. But as long as there is this threat out there of another Trumpcare attempt, it’s going to be harder for us to do that, and it’s going to cause disruption in the very lives of the people we were sent here to represent.”

In the U.S. House, Congresswoman Annie Kuster, who also saw the possibility of massive rate hikes looming, has been working to stabilize the marketplace. Earlier this year, Kuster and nine House Democrats unveiled a five-part plan to improve upon the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual marketplace.

“I’ve discussed with Republican colleagues various proposals to stabilize the individual marketplace and rein in costs. I genuinely believe that there are many areas of agreement that can be reached to improve our healthcare system and I’m hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come to the table in good faith to get this done for the American people,” said Kuster.

Not only has the President and the Republican leadership actively worked to repeal the ACA, they have been ensuring its failure by slashing funding to the program.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter pushed back by calling on the President to release funding allocated for the exchange “navigators” program.

“Navigators are an essential resource for the American people, and the Navigator program is critical to the success of Open Enrollment. We urge you to unfreeze these funds immediately,” Shea-Porter wrote. “Americans already face a number of new hurdles to enrolling in coverage during the upcoming Open Enrollment period, including an enrollment timeframe that has been cut in half and a 90% cut to the outreach budget that could have informed consumers about this significant change. Destabilizing the Navigator program could further compound the challenges consumers will face in understanding when and how to enroll.”

Shea-Porter also submitted an amendment that would save the Navigator grant program from elimination in House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

We have known for a while that the ACA needs adjustments, but you would not toss out your car because of a loose spark plug.  We need to stop this ideological and political attack on the ACA and do what is really needed to help working families.

Of course there are many among us who believe the best way to solve the entire insurance issue is to eliminate private insurance all together and move to a national single player system.

Kuster Leads Roundtable in Salem on Youth Opioid Education and Prevention

(Salem, NH) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, lead a roundtable discussion at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem on youth opioid education and prevention. The discussion, which drew an audience of community members, brought together local and state leaders addressing the opioid crisis and centered on the often overlooked impact of the epidemic on New Hampshire’s youth. Prior to the discussion, Congresswoman Kuster was given a tour of the Boys & Girls Club facility.

“The opioid epidemic is taking a toll on families and communities in every corner of our state,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We know the impacts of the opioid crisis go beyond those suffering from substance use disorder, it extends to children and family members as well. We all have a role to play in tackling this crisis and I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss programs aimed at protecting our youth with leadership at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, law enforcement, and educators.  I will continue working in Congress to strengthen education, prevention, treatment and recovery services for Granite Staters of all ages.”

“The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem wants to thank Congresswoman Kuster for having an important discussion regarding the impact that opioids are having in our community,” said Marco Abreau, COO, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem. “The opioid epidemic that is hitting our communities is an unfortunate reality for many of our Club members.  Many of our members are dealing with the cruel circumstances of their loved ones falling victim to addiction.  The task at hand is definitely a challenge, however the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem will not waiver as we continue to push forward in the support of all our members and their families.  Our mission states we will be here for the youth ‘who need us most’, and this holds true for the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

In June, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force released its legislative agenda for the 115th Congress. The agenda includes the Stem the Tide of Overdose Prevalence from Opiate Drugs (STOP OD) Act, which authorizes up to $75 million in educational grants to prevent opioid abuse, and the Synthetic Drug Act, which requires the Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the health effects of the rise of synthetic drug use among young people aged 12 to 18.

New Hampshire has been on the front lines fighting back against the opioid epidemic.  New reporting from The Daily Beast showed that under the new GOP proposed healthcare plan, funding for opioid addition, recovery, and research would vanish.  The bill would slash Medicaid, which many claim is the biggest asset to fighting opioid addiction, as well as cut “$45 million” in addition funds earmarked for opioid treatment.

“Opioid addiction is taking lives and tearing apart families. But instead of fighting to address the problem, Republicans in Congress want to ram through this partisan bill to take away people’s health care and slash billions in funding for addiction treatment,” said Tom Perez, chair of the DNC. “Just over a month after calling the opioid epidemic a national emergency, President Trump has done nothing to help those affected. Now he’s leading the Republican charge to strip protections and resources from the working families who need them most.”

“This issue knows no party. From New Hampshire to Nevada, the opioid crisis has ravaged communities across the country. And without the Affordable Care Act, things will get even worse. Democrats believe that this urgent crisis demands urgent action. That’s why we will keep working to give families the resources they need to fight back. We cannot sit idly by while Republicans choose cruelty over compassion and destroy the lives of millions,” added Perez.

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