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Shea-Porter Discusses Health Care with Manchester Community Health Center Leaders

Roundtable Highlights Progress, Next Steps on Expanding Access to Care & Addressing Opioid Crisis

MANCHESTER — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today hosted a roundtable discussion with Manchester Community Health Center (MCHC) leaders and staff. The discussion highlighted the key role community health centers play in serving the Manchester community, including in addressing the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis, and how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its Medicaid expansion have improved community health centers’ ability to provide care. Shea-Porter shared her commitment to continuing that progress and discussed how her newly introduced bill, the Medicare You Can Opt Into Act of 2017, would do that.

“Community health centers know better than anyone that this would be the worst time to yank the rug out from under people who now have access to care, because it’s working,” Shea-Porter said. “It’s impressive to see the innovation here at Manchester Community Health Center, especially in integrating behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment in care, because for so many years this was siloed.”

 

Shea-Porter speaks with MCHC staff and community members

“Health centers find a way to stretch that dollar and be creative,” said Kris McCracken, MCHC President and CEO, highlighting community health centers’ impressive return on investment and the need to continue the Affordable Care Act’s investment in the Community Health Center Fund. Shea-Porter recently wrote to Congressional appropriators in support of the funding, together with 288 bipartisan Members of Congress.

Julie Hazell-Felch, MCHC’s Director of Behavioral Health, discussed how the ACA and its Medicaid expansion have allowed MCHC to address the substance use disorder crisis in New Hampshire, highlighting its medication assisted treatment (MAT) program for patients with opioid and alcohol use disorder and its school-based outreach and prevention efforts, saying: “If we lost Medicaid expansion we wouldn’t be able to offer these programs, and you aren’t going to find this amount of diversified programs anywhere else.”

Cecilia Skerry, who directs MCHC’s patient navigator services, highlighted the benefits of being able to connect previously uninsured patients with coverage, saying: “Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, my team has been able to provide better quality assistance. Now, we can get anywhere from 350 to 500 new patients a month” enrolled in coverage through the ACA’s Marketplace or Medicaid expansion (the New Hampshire Health Protection Program).

Shea-Porter Introduces Corporations Are Not People Amendment

Constitutional Amendment Attacks Flood of Dark Money
Unleashed by Citizens United Decision
 

WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today introduced the Corporations are Not People Amendment, a Constitutional Amendment to ensure that people, not corporations, are entitled to First Amendment-protected political speech. The Amendment would reverse the catastrophic effects of 2010’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has allowed dark money to flood our elections and drown out Americans’ voices in our democracy. 

“Getting dark money out of politics is the necessary first step toward restoring trust in elections and getting our government working for the people instead of for corporate interests,” said Shea-Porter. “With the Corporations Are Not People Amendment, we can stem the flood of money unleashed by Citizens United and make sure our government is working for real people instead of big business.” 

Shea-Porter’s amendment has earned endorsements from government accountability advocacy groups including Common Cause, People for the American Way, and Free Speech for People. 

“Common Cause commends Congresswoman Shea-Porter and the many other Members of Congress who have championed a Constitutional amendment to help reduce the influence of big money in politics,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs for Common Cause. “This amendment would help ensure that the voices of all Americans can be heard in our democracy even if they can’t hire a lobbyist, make a large campaign contribution, or start a super PAC.”

The Corporations Are Not People Amendment is the first bill Shea-Porter is introducing as part of her People Not Profits initiative to root out corporate influence in Washington. In addition to getting money out of politics, Shea-Porter will tackle lobbying loopholes that currently allow revolving-door influence, and work to strengthen prohibitions against conflicts of interest so we can make sure government officials aren’t using their position for personal profit.

New Hampshire Congressional Delegation Strongly Opposes GOP Repeal Of ACA

This week, Republicans released their new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with something much worse.

“House Republicans should be ashamed of their new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would hurt New Hampshire workers and families by ending Medicaid expansion, driving up premiums, leaving fewer people with coverage than before the law passed, and setting us back in the fight against the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “Despite months of pleas from their own constituents, who are terrified about losing their coverage, House Republicans have written a bill that shows total disregard for the people they are supposed to represent and instead bows to special interests. Unbelievably, after almost eight years, House Republicans still refuse to say how much their plan would cost and how many people it would force off their coverage – Republican leadership is trying to jam their bill through before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office even has the chance to score it. Instead of House Republicans’ backroom approach, the American people deserve an honest bipartisan debate on a bill that doesn’t erase the Affordable Care Act’s progress in driving the uninsured rate to the lowest on record, but instead makes needed fixes and improvements to our health care system to ensure all Granite Staters have access to affordable, quality healthcare.”

Congresswoman Kuster said the ACA is “not perfect” but “their proposal would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans” in her statement.

“It’s clear why Republicans in the House felt it necessary to keep this Affordable Care Act repeal plan hidden behind lock and key. Their proposal would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, and I’m willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to improve the law, but not at the expense of the healthcare of thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans nationwide,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. 

“The plan would cut Medicaid spending and phase out the expansion, which has helped thousands of people in New Hampshire access health insurance and has increased treatment and recovery services for those struggling with substance use disorders. Repealing health care subsidies would drive up costs for seniors and less healthy individuals, and provisions to defund providers such as Planned Parenthood do nothing to increase access to care. This is a huge giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, and the plan appallingly even includes a tax break for insurance CEOs making more than half a million dollars. I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to rethink this misguided approach and instead come to the table in good faith to help improve the system for all Americans,” Kuster added. 

The Alliance for Retired Americans called the bill “another tax giveaway” to the wealthiest Americans and would “gut” the Medicare Trust Fund.

“After seven years Republicans have finally shown us what their repeal of Obamacare looks like. It would be a disaster for older and working Americans and for our health care system,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “The bill repeals the increase in the Medicare payroll tax for high earners. That will reduce the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 4 years, from 2029 to 2025. This is an insult to the fifty-seven million Medicare beneficiaries who have earned their guaranteed Medicare benefits, and many millions more who contribute to Medicare expecting it to be there when they retire.   

“The bill also cuts federal funding for Medicaid by $560 billion over 10 years. Cuts of this magnitude will force states to make deep cuts in the number of people who receive benefits, or the amount of health care provided. Over 70 million beneficiaries rely on Medicaid, including almost 6 million seniors who depend on it for their nursing home and home care services. The GOP’s message is, ‘Sorry, you’re out of luck.’

“Republicans have topped this off by changing the age rating for older Americans from 3:1 to 5:1, or even greater in some states. Enabling insurers to charge older Americans that much more will greatly increase costs for people over the age of 50,” Fiesta concluded. 

Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the bill would hurt middle class families in New Hampshire and across the U.S.

“This repeal bill would be nothing short of a disaster for healthcare coverage in New Hampshire and a devastating blow to our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic,” said Shaheen. “This is clearly a broken promise by President Trump and Republican leadership who assured the American public that nobody would be kicked off of their healthcare coverage. It’s unconscionable that this bill would decimate the Medicaid program and eliminate healthcare subsidies for the middle class while the wealthy get another tax break and insurance company CEOs get a pay bump. The bill also defunds Planned Parenthood, jeopardizing vital preventative and reproductive care for thousands of women in New Hampshire. It took Republican leadership seven years to come up with this repeal bill.  This proposal clearly demonstrates why Republican leadership should keep the Affordable Care Act and finally commit to working across the aisle to improve it.” 

Senator Maggie Hassan spoke out against the new House bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan, force older Americans and middle class families to pay more while providing tax breaks for insurance CEOs and the wealthiest Americans, force drastic cuts to New Hampshire’s traditional Medicaid program for children, seniors and people with disabilities, and defund Planned Parenthood.

At a press conference in the Capitol with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senator Hassan specifically highlighted the devastating impact that the House bill would have on New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan and efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis.

“Make no mistake – this so-called replacement plan would end Medicaid expansion, which experts have said is the most important tool available to fight the substance use crisis. The House Republican plan also hurts children, seniors and people with disabilities with drastic federal cuts to the traditional Medicaid program. It would force states to either cut services our citizens need or to raise taxes,” said Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan added, “Repealing Medicaid expansion would severely hurt the ability of those on the front lines to save lives and turn the tide of this deadly substance abuse epidemic. Substance use treatment providers have been clear that if Medicaid expansion is repealed, they will have to significantly cut back on the help that they can provide to those in need. To pull the rug out from millions of people across the country who are seeking a lifeline from the throes of addiction is the height of irresponsibility. And we cannot – and we will not – let it happen.”

Congresswomen Kuster And Shea-Porter Vote Against Cuts To Women’s Healthcare Access Through ‘Title X’ Funding

Yesterday, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) voted against a misguided Republican proposal to weaken the Title X national family planning program by rolling back a Title X rule designed to shield family planning clinics across the country from partisan state-level defunding efforts.

The Title X rule, which today the House voted to eliminate, prevents organizations from being barred from funding for reasons other than their ability to provide Title X services. The rule was implemented as a result of states, including the state of New Hampshire, eliminating or restricting Title X funding to providers based on the abortion or contraception services they provide. Federal funds are prohibited from being used for abortion except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother.

This week, Kuster join more than 160 of her colleagues in calling for an end to attacks on women’s health care.

“This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on the ability of low income women and their families to access comprehensive family planning services,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We’ve seen firsthand here in New Hampshire that partisan politics can interfere with care for thousands of Granite State women, men, and their families. We should be working to expand access to comprehensive family planning services not jeopardizing care for the most vulnerable among us.”

“We should be working together on solutions to the serious challenges we face as a nation, but instead, it’s another day in Congress, another attack on women’s health,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “The protection House Republicans opposed today was developed specifically to defend New Hampshire women and families’ access to care from ideological attacks, and today’s vote makes it clear that such protection is needed now more than ever.” 

The rule House Republicans voted to roll back, clarifies that state governments must allocate federal Title X funds based on a provider’s ability to perform family planning services effectively, instead of for ideological reasons.

For more than 40 years, Title X has served as a cornerstone of safety-net care. As the only dedicated source of federal funding for family planning, Title X allows a diverse network of providers to deliver high-quality care to low-income, uninsured, or underinsured individuals and to those seeking confidential care. Title X also supports critical infrastructure needs for health centers, including new medical equipment and staff training that are not reimbursable under Medicaid and commercial insurance. This infrastructure is vital to ensuring safe, quality care at health centers which serve and provide basic health services to high-need populations.

In 2016, Title X funding helped nearly 4 million Americans get access to healthcare services including cancer screenings, birth control, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

The independent, nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences states that Title X family planning can prevent unintended and high-risk pregnancies, thereby reducing fetal, infant, and maternal mortality and morbidity. IOM also stated that the appropriate use of contraception reduces abortion rates and cites “ample evidence that family planning services are cost-effective.”

In 2014, Title X family planning services helped avert an estimated 171,800 unintended teen pregnancies. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that without Title X clinics’ services, the 2014 U.S. teen pregnancy rate would have been 30% higher.

The Obama administration developed the protection in response to several states’ ideologically motivated attacks on women’s access to care and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, including the New Hampshire Executive Council’s 2011 cancellation of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s contract. That vote denied women in several regions of the state access to crucial preventive care, leaving them with zero providers for several months.

In 2015, more than 17,000 people in New Hampshire accessed family planning services through Title X programs. Of those receiving services, nearly half were individuals under the poverty level.

Reps Shea-Porter And Kuster Join 112 Colleagues To Reintroduce Paid Family Leave Bill

Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act Would Strengthen New Hampshire Workers’ Economic Security

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined 112 of their colleagues today to reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a bill to create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program and ensure that American workers no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for a family member.

“The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that still doesn’t guarantee working parents paid time off to care for their newborns,” said Shea-Porter. “I call on Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on the FAMILY Act, because New Hampshire workers shouldn’t have to choose between their family’s health and economic security.”

“No new parent should have to choose between providing for their family and spending important time caring for and fostering the development of a newborn,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Similarly, no one should lose their livelihood because they need to care for an ill family member. It’s just not right. We must enact policies that support hardworking families in New Hampshire and around the country with commonsense paid family leave policies. It’s good for families and businesses that will benefit from higher worker retention and less turnover.”

A recent University of New Hampshire study found that, “About one-third of New Hampshire workers have jobs without extended paid leave to tend to their own illness; about half lack access to parental leave; and two-thirds lack access to paid leave to care for an ill family member.”

Last week, Shea-Porter introduced another bill to support New Hampshire’s working families, the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act, which would boost the tax break’s value and ensure it keeps up with the costs working parents face, including the quickly-rising cost of childcare.

Shea-Porter previously co-introduced the FAMILY Act in 2013, but despite broad support for paid family leave, House Republicans never called a vote on the bill.

Trump Attempts To Ban Muslims, People And Leaders React, And The ACLU Hails Victory

With the stroke of his pen, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban refugees and citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The order also prevents Iraqis who supported the U.S. mission and face threats as a result, from coming to the United States.

This order was the fulfillment of one of Trump’s most divisive campaign promises blocking all “Muslims” from entering the United States as Trump portrayed all Muslims as terrorists.  Many fear that this ban is only the first step in the Trump administration agenda against Muslims as he repeatedly called for a national registry of Muslim’s living in the US.

“This executive order is un-American and grossly inhumane,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “We are a nation of immigrants and should remain welcoming to all nations and faiths, particularly those who are fleeing violence and oppression. Refugees, from Syria in particular, are fleeing unspeakable terror and hunger, and it’s unconscionable that the United States will no longer provide any of these refugees a safe haven.

“This order also endangers our troops and diplomats. Discriminating based on religion and nationality severely undermines the local alliances and trust established by our troops and diplomats in the field. This order is so ill-considered that it is even barring Iraqi civilians who have provided essential assistance to the U.S. mission. We owe a tremendous debt to the brave Iraqis who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in the field, putting themselves and their families at risk to help our soldiers and diplomats accomplish their mission and return home safely. To abandon them now would be a stain on our national honor,” Shaheen concluded. 

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) also spoke out against Trump’s “religious test” saying it goes against “the fundamental values that makes America the greatest country on earth”.

“President Trump’s executive action imposing a religious test on entry into the United States runs counter to the fundamental values that make America the greatest country on earth. It will also make us less safe. We must always be working to strengthen the vetting process for all entryways into the United States, but discriminating against individuals on the basis of their religion will only harm our national security interests.” 

“It is also disgraceful that these executive actions would turn away the brave men and women who have risked their lives to serve as interpreters for our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is both our moral obligation and a national security imperative to assist those who have helped us, and I will support efforts by Senators Shaheen and McCain to authorize visas for these interpreters,” Hassan added. 

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) also condemned Trump’s executive order.

“I condemn President Trump’s decision to reject fundamental American values. Our nation’s founders built this nation on dreams of a better, more tolerant society, and now we must stand together and defend and preserve those ideals. I call on President Trump to immediately reverse his actions, and I invite all Granite Staters to join me in letting our refugee and immigrant neighbors know that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as one community.”

Ray Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party, and candidate for Chair of the Democratic National Committee, called Trump’s move, “un-American”.

“President Trump may have set a record today in receiving a stunning blowback to his latest executive order restricting travel from Muslim countries. As a candidate for Chair, a member of the Democratic Party, and a patriotic American I condemn this disgrace in the strongest possible terms. It is illegal, reprehensible, and the very definition of un-American. I call upon President Trump to rescind this order, and I call upon lawmakers of both parties to resist this atrocity and remind the President of just what it means to be an American.”

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, takes pride in the fact that Planned Parenthood offers “high-quality care to everyone regardless of faith, country of origin, immigrant or refugee status,” lashed out at President Trump decision.  

“President Trump’s executive order signed today effectively restricts the ability of immigrants and refugees to enter this country based on their country of origin and religious background. This is an appalling attack on refugees and Muslims, designed to sow fear. The Planned Parenthood community is made up of people from all walks of life — including immigrants and refugees of all backgrounds and faith communities, including Muslims.

“Refugees, who have left everything behind and are forced to negotiate their safety in unfamiliar countries and language, also face unique barriers to care. We’ve seen this firsthand through our health centers in the U.S. – many of which proudly serve refugee communities – as well as through Planned Parenthood Global’s community-based partners in Africa and Latin America, who help so many women and families overcome unimaginable barriers to health including poverty, conflict and violence. These policies single out and target those most in need of access to care, and will only make it more difficult for these communities to access the health care they need.

“At Planned Parenthood we believe that health has no borders: the ability to live and thrive without fear of deportation, surveillance, or having your family torn apart, and the ability to access health care, are basic human rights. Planned Parenthood health centers are proud to provide high-quality care to everyone regardless of faith, country of origin, immigrant or refugee status, or to those who may otherwise have nowhere else to turn for health care. We are committed to standing with immigrants and refugees, in the U.S. and in many of their countries of origin, through our global partnerships.  

“These policies hurt the most vulnerable in the world, people fleeing in terror for their lives, or people simply coming from a different faith, just when they need our help the most. The United States was founded on values of refuge and compassion, which is why we are prepared to stand alongside our partners to fight back against this hate and discrimination,” Richards concluded. 

Immediately after the order was signed, outraged Americans took to the streets in protests.  They packed into airports across the country as immigrants were detained and refused entrance into the US even though they had legal visa’s.

The same thing spontaneously happened in Houston, Texas.

By far the largest was in New York and JFK’s international terminal where thousands showed up to protest. Protesters were joined by the NY Taxi Cab Alliance, a union of taxi drivers, who refused to pick up anyone at the airport during the protest.

AND IT WORKED! Last night, a federal judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction that will block the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban. The ACLU and other legal organizations filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who were subject to the ban.  The lead plaintiffs have been detained by the U.S. government and threatened with deportation even though they have valid visas to enter the United States.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case, said:

“This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil.”

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, had this reaction to the ruling:

“Clearly the judge understood the possibility for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court.”

(The stay order is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/darweesh-v-trump-order)

Shea-Porter Announces Education and Workforce Committee Appointment

Congresswoman to continue to stand up for workers, access to health care & education 

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been appointed again to the House Education and Workforce Committee, where she will continue to support working families, defend access to health care, and promote access to education for all.

“I’m excited to continue championing New Hampshire’s working families as a member of the Education and Workforce Committee,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “I will fight for everyone to have a shot at the American Dream and to build on the progress we made in previous Congresses creating jobs, expanding access to health care, and improving financial aid, while standing up against attempts to take us backward.”

As a member of the Committee, Shea-Porter will continue her work on the following priorities:

Standing up for American workers: The Congresswoman will fight on behalf of American workers, who are being denied their fair share of the gains from the economic recovery. On the Committee, she’ll continue her support for policies like living wages, equal pay, paid family leave, and defense of workers’ right to organize.

Improving access to affordable healthcare: Shea-Porter will work to protect the Affordable Care Act’s progress in driving the uninsured rate to the lowest on record and will fight against kicking 118,000 Granite Staters off their coverage and going back to the days when insurers could charge more or deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions like asthma or cancer. 

Advocating for educational opportunity: For too many people, the opportunity to pursue the dream of attending a university, community college, or vocational school is still out of reach – especially in New Hampshire, where students carry the highest average debt loads in the nation. Shea-Porter will continue working to improve affordability, building on her successes increasing the value of Pell grants, taking the middleman out of student loans, and saving Head Start. 

Earlier this month, the Congresswoman announced her fourth appointment to the House Armed Services Committee, where she works to support our troops, veterans, and their families. 

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Cosponsors Bipartisan Veterans Legislation To Help Those Exposed To Agent Orange

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Shea-Porter cosponsored four pieces of bipartisan legislation to help veterans. H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act, would make it easier for Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange to receive disability compensation benefits. Shea-Porter also cosponsored H.R. 512, the WINGMAN Act, to streamline the process for constituent caseworkers to process veterans’ benefits claims. H.R. 411, the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, would require the VA to collect new data on veterans’ suicide to better understand the causes of veteran’s suicide and identify risk factors. H.R. 488 The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act, would provide a tax credit to military spouses to offset the fees associated with transferring a professional license to a new state if a Permanent Change of Station order forces the family to relocate.

The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act corrects an unfortunate VA decision in 2002 to limit the scope of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The Agent Orange Act allowed the VA to presume that certain illnesses were the result of Agent Orange exposure and grant disability benefits to veterans based on their service location and that presumption. In 2002, the VA began requiring veterans to prove they had “boots on the ground” orders before granting disability claims and limited the definition to infantry and riverine Navy. Many who served off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims to restore their benefits, and over 32,880 of those claims were denied from 2002 to 2009. H.R. 299 extends the presumptive coverage to veterans who served up to 12 miles off-shore of Vietnam, so they can more easily receive disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure.

“The bipartisan legislation I’ve cosponsored will make it easier for our Navy Vietnam veterans to receive disability benefits if they were exposed to Agent Orange. Too many veterans are denied benefits claims because of insufficient record keeping and unequitable rules. The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act would help solve this problem, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. 

Shea-Porter also cosponsored the WINGMAN Act, which grants certified Congressional staff access to the VA claims processing system in order to streamline the process for processing veterans’ casework. Currently, caseworkers that are trained and certified to view these records, must request individual documents and records from the VA, which takes time and forces the veteran to wait even longer to resolve disability claims disputes. WINGMAN would allow caseworkers to have “read-only” access to the claims processing system to speed up information sharing between VA staff and caseworkers.

“Veterans wait long enough to resolve their benefits claims; they shouldn’t be held up because of bureaucratic paperwork issues that increase the time it takes for caseworkers to review claims documents. The bipartisan legislation I cosponsored would make it easier for professional, certified Congressional caseworkers to view a veteran’s benefit claim records,” continued Shea-Porter.

Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

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Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

Classroom Expense Deduction (REPAY) Passes House

Congresswoman Led Bipartisan Fight To Pass Teachers Provision

WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) is pleased to announce that the Classroom Expense Deduction was included in a bipartisan package that passed the House today by a vote of 378-46.

“I am very happy that when teachers file their taxes next year, they’ll have this modest recognition of the financial sacrifices they make for our kids,” said Shea-Porter.

Last October, Shea-Porter introduced H.R.3318, the Reimburse Educators who Pay for Academic Year (REPAY) Supplies Act, and built an active coalition of 68 bipartisan cosponsors. Throughout 2014, she led bipartisan letters and advocacy efforts, speaking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle about the importance of extending this deduction.

Shea-Porter began her efforts in response to a letter she received from Margaret Morse-Barry, an educator from Derry, New Hampshire, who urged Shea-Porter to look into extending the expiring tax deduction.

“For teachers, educating students is much more than just a day job,” said Shea-Porter. “They come to school early, stay late, and give up their own time and money to create welcoming and engaging classroom environments. The Classroom Expense Deduction lets us put some of that money back in teachers’ pockets, mitigating the financial sacrifices they make on behalf of their students.”

Supporters of Shea-Porter’s legislation include the National Education Association (NEA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), NEA–New Hampshire Chapter, AFT–New Hampshire Chapter, and the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

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