|Common Sense Junction|
|Congressional Blog Headlines|
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 6 Dec 2013 | 3:15 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Vice Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) issued the following statements in response to the Congressional Budget Office updated estimate of H.R. 2810, the Medicare Patient Access and Quality Improvement Act. CBO now estimates H.R. 2810 would cost $153.2 billion over the next ten years, more than $20 billion less than previously estimated.
Authored by Rep. Burgess, H.R. 2810 was approved by the full committee by a vote of 51-0 on July 31, 2013. The bill would repeal the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) system and replace it with a fair and stable system for physician payment in Medicare. It would promote the highest quality of care for our nation’s seniors and would seek input from expert medical organizations and other groups in the determination of quality measures. Learn more about the committee’s efforts on SGR here.
“Providing security and peace of mind to our nation’s seniors is of critical importance, which is why our committee acted in July to once and for all, repeal and replace the flawed SGR formula,” said Chairman Pitts. “For too long, seniors have been left to wonder if their physicians will be able to continue their practice because of a broken, bureaucratic payment system. It is encouraging to see our bipartisan work succeeding.”
“Fixing the flawed Medicare payment formula is some of the most important work facing this Congress”, said Vice Chairman Burgess. “The committee’s legislation to repeal the SGR is vital to the protect the health of our seniors and ensure that our nation’s best doctors continue to see Medicare patients. I am certain that this new estimate by the CBO will accelerate the pace in passing this bill. Now is the time to repeal the broken SGR and replace it with a system that is good for both doctors and seniors.”
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 6 Dec 2013 | 1:30 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce today announced its hearing and vote schedule for the week of December 9, 2013. The committee will continue its oversight of the president’s health care law as well as the Federal Communications Commission and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The committee will also vote on a number of bills aimed at improving public health, reducing outdated regulations, and reforming FCC process.
On Tuesday, December 10, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade will hold a hearing on “The State of Online Gaming.” The subcommittee will examine the current regulatory landscape for online gambling after the Justice Department’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act. The subcommittee will also review H.R. 2666, the Internet Poker Freedom Act. The Majority Memorandum and witness list are available here and witness testimony will be available at the same link as they are posted.
Also on Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Health will hold a markup of three public health bills reviewed by the subcommittee in November. They are:
- H.R. 3527 - the Poison Control Centers Reauthorization, introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), which reauthorizes important activities related to poison control centers;
- H.R. 1098 - the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act, which reauthorizes programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and support TBI surveillance systems and registries.
- H.R. 1281 - the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, which reauthorizes federal programs that provide assistance to states to improve and expand their newborn screening programs.
A Background Memo and electronic copies of the legislation can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website here. Amendments and votes will be available at the same link as they are posted.
Finally, on Tuesday, the full committee will begin a markup on a number of bills from the Health, Energy and Power, and Communications and Technology subcommittees. They are:
- H.R. 3527, the Poison Center Network Act;
- H.R. 1098, the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act;
- H.R. 1281, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act;
- H.R. 724, a bill to amend the Clean Air Act to remove the requirement for dealer certification of new light-duty motor vehicles;
- H.R. __, a bill to amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to strengthen the collaboration between the United States and Israel on energy development and to bolster the existing United States-Israel energy relationship by encouraging increased cooperation between the two countries; and
- H.R. __, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act.
The committee will reconvene on Wednesday, December 11, to vote on the legislation. Background Memo and electronic copies of the legislation can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website here. Amendments and votes will be available at the same link as they are posted.
On Wednesday, December 11, the Subcommittee on Health will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as it continues its oversight of the president’s health care law with a hearing on “PPACA Implementation Failures: What’s Next?” Secretary Sebelius last appeared before the full committee on October 30. Since then the committee’s investigation has uncovered documents demonstrating that on April 4 the secretary was warned of the challenges about meeting the October 1 launch date, but on April 18 testified that implementation was “on track.” The Majority Memorandum and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.
On Thursday, December 12, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission” featuring the testimony of all five FCC commissioners.. Members last heard from the full commission in July 2012. With the confirmation of a new chairman, the subcommittee intends to conduct general oversight and discuss the breadth of issues before the commission. The Majority Memorandum and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.
Also on Thursday, the Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy will hold a joint hearing on “Oversight of NRC Management and the Need for Legislative Reform.” The commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will testify at the hearing focused on the NRC’s management and efficiency and actions to comply with the recent court order directing the commission to resume its consideration of the Department of Energy’s license application for Yucca Mountain. The subcommittees will also review legislation authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), H.R. 3132, the NRC Reorganization Plan Codification and Complements Act, which would clarify the commissioners’ powers and reform how the commission conducts policymaking. The Majority Memorandum and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 12:30 p.m. 2123 Rayburn Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Hearing on “The State of Online Gaming”
2 p.m. 2322 Rayburn Subcommittee on Health Markup of H.R. 3527, the “Poison Center Network Act”; H.R. 1098, the “Traumatic Brian Injury Reauthorization Act;” and H.R. 1281, the “Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act.”
4:30 p.m 2123 Rayburn Energy and Commerce Committee Full Committee Markup (Opening Statements only)
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn Subcommittee on Health Hearing on “PPACA Implementation Failures: What’s Next?”
12:30 p.m. 2123 Rayburn Energy and Commerce Committee Reconvening of Full Committee Markup
Thursday, December 12, 2013 10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn House Office Building Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission”
10:15 a.m. 2322 Rayburn House Office Building Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy Hearing on “Oversight of NRC Management and the Need for Legislative Reform”
→ Speaker.gov | 6 Dec 2013 | 11:41 am MST
Speaker Boehner’s mighty Moeller Crusaders are playing for their second straight Ohio Division I high school football title on Saturday, and he has this message for the team:
“All right, Big Moe, I just want you to know I’m thinking about you. I hope you have a great game … and never ever, ever give up. God bless you.”
Boehner graduated from Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller High School in 1968 and played football there under legendary coach Gerry Faust, an experience the Speaker talked about at Catholic University’s commencement in 2011:
“I played football in high school. The Moeller High School football team was the Moeller Crusaders. And our coach, Gerry Faust, made sure we earned every bit of that name. … He’d have the whole team kneel down and pray the Hail Mary before every meeting, every practice, and every game. Then we’d go out and smash heads with the other team for four quarters…all in the name of the Blessed Mother. That gives you an idea of the kind of guy Coach Faust was, and still is. And it was the basis for a lesson he taught us, one I've been repeating ever since: ‘there’s nothing in life you can’t achieve if you’re willing to work hard enough and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed.’”
Good luck, Crusaders.
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 6 Dec 2013 | 10:50 am MST
The president’s broken promise of “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan,” has been well-documented, but it’s not the only source of middle class dissactisfaction with the president’s health law. His promise that the health care law would save families an average of $2,500 per year is likewise proving false, with an especially painful financial truth in its place. In an effort to distract attention from the botched health care law, the president this week attempted a pivot to the economy. Bloomberg reports President Obama on Wednesday claimed that his signature health care law “would reduce a ‘major source of inequality and help ensure more Americans get the start they need to succeed.’” But a look at the financial consequences of the law now being reported shows skyrocketing premiums will be a major drain on middle class pocketbooks.
USA Today reports, “Insurance brokers and ‘navigators’ helping people apply for insurance say there are shockingly high prices for some consumers who aren’t eligible for subsidies.” Those stories exist all across the country. An insurance broker in Texas adds, “Others making about 400% of the poverty level ‘are just angry when they do have to make a change because for the most part they are going to have to pay more money.’” The story goes on, “Ralph Webster, 62, of Kitty Hawk, N.C., says his health insurance premium for a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan is going from $401 a month to $747.”
KTVB in Idaho reports, “A small business owner in the Treasure Valley says the Affordable Care Act has made his family’s health care coverage much more expensive.” Joel Lund’s plan was cancelled, and he told KTVB, “‘We’re going to go from $770 a month which we were paying up until October, to about $1,300. I don’t see how this helps.’”
WAFF in Alabama adds, “Families across northern Alabama are already in sticker shock over the new policy prices. Mary Elizabeth Comulada was alerted that the family health insurance policy she uses with her two children and her husband has ben banned under the Affordable Care Act, and offered her a plan that complies with the act with higher deductibles for almost twice the price. ‘How can my premium double per month? How can our deductible go up on every single family member? And yet you’re providing me the same plan.’”
An insurance broker in Michigan whose plan was cancelled under the health law told The Detroit News, “I’ve been happy with my plan. …They are raising my premium and they are giving me services that I don’t need. It’s really illogical.’”
The Charlotte Observer adds, “Across North Carolina, thousands of people have been shocked in recent weeks to find out their health insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year – and premiums for comparable coverage could increase sharply.”
The San Francisco Chronicle explains, “Now that the Affordable Care Act exchanges are open for business, voters are finding that the biggest problem with Obamacare isn’t that some Web sites crashed last week but that the Obama promise of big savings for the average family was too good to be true. …middle-class and affluent people stand to pay more. Forget that $2,500 savings.”
Politico reports that even “Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare.”
The Pacific Standard notes it’s not just rising premiums, “come January, a second rate shock may hit and could produce more bad news for Obamacare. That’s when millions of Americans who select health insurance plans on the new marketplaces may realize that their new insurance plans don’t pay the bills right away. They come with high deductibles and co-pays.”
While the president continues to try search for and promote positive stories about his failed health care law, families across the country are left to worry about not only if they will have health care next year, but what it will cost them and their families.
→ Speaker.gov | 6 Dec 2013 | 10:47 am MST
Fundamental flaws at the heart of the president’s health care law continued coming to light this week, with stories of Medicare Advantage patients losing their doctors, small business owners “scared to death,” and young Americans seeing their hours cut due to ObamaCare’s burdensome mandates. As numerous editorials from across the country note, the problems with the president’s health care law go far beyond its botched website:
- “Plans Being Dropped, Much-Higher Premiums and People Losing Access to Their Preferred Doctors and Medical Centers” “Shortly after the botched launch of HealthCare.gov, Obama at a press conference insisted that the only problem with the Affordable Care Act was the website’s performance. ‘The product is good,’ he said. But reports of millions of Americans’ plans being dropped, much-higher premiums and people losing access to their preferred doctors and medical centers quickly put the lie to that.” (The Columbus Dispatch)
- “Intrinsic Defects” “But continuing glitches and delays raise a deeper question. Just how much do these technical and administrative flaws reflect the heart of the ACA itself? As within, so without: The implementation problems likely are only symptomatic of intrinsic defects.” (The Daily Progress)
- “Delays, Excuses, Mistakes and Misinformation” “There have been delays, excuses, mistakes and misinformation (some might say outright lies) from the White House since Obamacare was unleashed, and quite frankly, there isn’t any reason to think things will change today. Ultimately, the failure of Obamacare will be because having the federal government dictate, order and manipulate the health care system will not decrease the cost of health care, no matter how many young people (supposedly the backbone of the Obamacare system) are able to log on to a website. This is why a dysfunctional website will eventually look like a small problem.” (Amarillo Globe-News)
- “The American Dream Could Become My Worst Nightmare” “Despite the delays and assurances from the government that things will get easier, the simple fact is that the ACA is going to hurt my business and my employees no matter when it goes into effect. … My options are downsizing, automating and creating part-time jobs that aren't careers. Or, the American dream could become my worst nightmare, and I could have to close my doors.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Op-Ed)
- “Canceled Serviceable, Individual Insurance Policies” “The health insurance mandate has somehow canceled serviceable, individual insurance policies for millions of Americans — which they were explicitly promised they could keep. Obama realizes how bad it all looks and sought to mitigate the political damage.” (New Bern Sun-Journal)
- “Costs More in Return for Worse Coverage” “The reason this furor will continue even if the website is fixed is that the public is learning that ObamaCare's insurance costs more in return for worse coverage.” (Wall Street Journal)
- “The Lie That Is ObamaCare Does Not Discriminate” “Soon to join the projected millions of Americans in the individual health care market who are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance carriers will be Medicare Advantage seniors. They're learning now that last year's warnings about their future health care should have been taken to heart. ... For young and old alike, the lie that is ObamaCare does not discriminate.” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
- “Another Day, Another News Story About Problems with ObamaCare” “Another day, another news story about problems with Obamacare, duly followed by another excuse out of the White House. No longer are the stories a drip, drip, drip, or even a glug, glug, glug. Now the flood has begun, and you have to put your hands over your ears to shut out the roar, the way you might if you were standing before any other giant waterfall.” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
- A Day in the Life of ObamaCare: “So Darn Scared,” “A Lot of Heartburn,” “There’s No Way”
- Everybody Hurts: ObamaCare Hits Seniors, Small Businesses, Families & More
- ObamaCare Problems That Can’t Be Reset or Repackaged
- ObamaCare to Undergo More Oversight Scrutiny This Week
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 6 Dec 2013 | 9:45 am MST
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation of the health care law’s failures has uncovered new documents that reveal the administration was aware of the need to delay the online small business (SHOP) exchanges as early as August. Despite this knowledge, the Obama administration waited to finalize the delay until November 27, as Americans across the country were off celebrating Thanksgiving with their loved ones.
The emails reveal conversations among officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the contractor, CGI Federal, between July 26, 2013, and August 13, 2013. The administration agreed on August 13 that SHOP online would be delayed until November 15, but the administration did not announce any delay until September 26, less than a week before employers were expecting to begin going online to shop for health care coverage for their employees. At that time, the administration said, “The SHOP Marketplace for Federally-facilitated Marketplace states opens Oct. 1, 2013, when small employers can start the application process and get an overview of available plans and premiums in their area. All functions for SHOP will be available in November and if employers and employees enroll by Dec. 15, 2013, coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014.”
Just last week, as Americans all across the country were traveling for Thanksgiving, the administration announced a one-year delay of the SHOP online enrollment feature.
“As the paper trail broadens, we see more and more evidence that the administration was fully aware its signature health care law was not ready for prime time,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “The documents we are now reviewing tell a much, much different story than what officials testified to Congress. While it’s not clear if any ‘blood oath’ was taken, the president’s top lieutenants repeatedly looked us in the eye, insisting that they were ‘on track’ when they knew looming deadlines would be impossible to meet. These are not the characteristics of the ‘most transparent administration in history.’ Secretary Sebelius must come prepared next week to provide answers about what January 1 and beyond will really look like. The American people deserve better, they deserve an administration that keeps its promises, and they deserve a reprieve from the president’s failed health care law.”
“As President Obama embarks on his latest PR push to try and salvage his signature legislation, we’re finding more evidence that the administration was painfully aware the work would not be complete by October 1,” said Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA).
Key findings from the documents follow (emphasis added):
Jo-Ann Webber at CMS Office of Information Services emailed on July 26, “I’ve escalated your concerns regarding the SHOP Employee application not being completed until 10/15/13, and the concern that the Employer application development will not be completed until 8/30/13; whereby the Employer will be able to enter the application, get eligibility, shop for a plan, but cannot move through the entire application process because the Employee Application Development will not be completed until 10/15/13.”
Dean Mohs at CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight immediately responded, “I am not recommending a delay of the employer application.” Going on to say, “I will also note that Chiquita testified yesterday to the Senate Small Business Committee and committed on more than one occasion that the FF-SHOP will go live on 10-1-13.”
NOTE: Chiquita Brooks-Lasure is the Deputy Center and Policy Director for CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
In the same email communication, on August 6, Monique Outerbridge, Director of CMS Office of Information Services, emailed CMS and CGI officials stressing, “Guys, this is absolutely urgent and I need an answer on this today. If this is late we have to public announce we are late with a deliverable which means Marilyn Tavenner and the Secretary will have to announce.”
In a separate email one week later, on August 13, Mark Calem, Vice President of Consulting for CGI, emailed Henry Chao about a “planned rollout schedule for SHOP: October 1 – Initial webinars conducted/October 15 – Online training materials available/November 1 – Employer portal goes live/November 15 – Employee portal goes live”
Chao immediately asked, “Can we sign this with blood?”
Ultimately, Rich Martin, Vice President of Consulting for CGI replied, “All light heartedness aside, we examined capacity and schedule and agree to these dates.”
As previously described, the administration announced November 27, more than a week after this agreed to timeline, that the online functions would be delayed for an entire year.
Read the complete documents online here.
→ Speaker.gov | 6 Dec 2013 | 7:57 am MST
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) will deliver the Weekly Republican Address on Saturday, December 7, 2013. She will talk about the House’s ongoing focus on jobs and securing fairness for all Americans hurting from the president’s fundamentally-flawed health care law.
About Rep. Renee Ellmers. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, Renee Ellmers sits on the Energy & Commerce Committee and is chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee. Before coming to Congress, Renee served as a registered nurse for more than 21 years, initially as a surgical intensive care nurse and then focusing on surgical and wound care patients along with her husband Dr. Brent Ellmers in their General Surgery practice. Learn more at http://ellmers.house.gov.
About the Weekly Republican Address. The text and the audio of the Weekly Republican Address will be released Friday afternoon and embargoed until Saturday, December 7 at 6:00 a.m. ET, when it will be available on Speaker.gov to view and download.
→ Speaker.gov | 6 Dec 2013 | 6:42 am MST
WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement today regarding the Department of Labor’s unemployment report for November 2013:
“Today’s report includes positive signs that should discourage calls for more emergency government ‘stimulus.’ Instead, what our economy needs is more pro-growth solutions that get government out of the way. That’s why the House has passed dozens of jobs bills that would help small businesses hire, increase our energy production, rein in red tape, and protect all Americans from the fundamentally-flawed health care law. President Obama ought to take this opportunity Republicans have given him and call on his party’s leaders in the Senate to act on these proposals immediately.”
→ Speaker.gov | 5 Dec 2013 | 2:58 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC - House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement on the passing of former South African president Nelson Mandela:
“Nelson Mandela was an unrelenting voice for democracy and his ‘long walk to freedom’ showed an enduring faith in God and respect for human dignity. His perseverance in fighting the apartheid system will continue to inspire future generations. Mandela led his countrymen through times of epic change with a quiet moral authority that directed his own path from prisoner to president. He passes this world as a champion of peace and racial harmony. I send condolences to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa.”
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 5 Dec 2013 | 1:51 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Power Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today held a hearing on “Evaluating the Role of FERC in a Changing Energy Landscape.” The subcommittee examined the legal and regulatory authorities of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the challenges and opportunities facing the commission as a result of America’s newfound energy abundance. Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur testified today alongside Commissioners Philip Moeller, John Norris, and Tony Clark.
“America’s energy picture is rapidly changing, and America’s energy regulators must keep pace. Long-held beliefs in American energy scarcity have given way to a new era of energy abundance, especially in regards to oil and natural gas,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "But many policies and attitudes are still rooted in the outdated assumptions of shortages and rising imports, with the potential to obstruct the opportunities before us. And FERC is in the middle of many of these debates.”
Members questioned the commissioners about many of FERC’s responsibilities, including ensuring grid reliability and security, solving gas-electric coordination challenges, natural gas pipeline permitting, LNG export project siting, and transmission planning and cost allocation.
Chairman Whitfield pressed the commissioners about the impact of Environmental Protection Agency regulations on electric reliability. Each of the commissioners expressed serious concerns about capacity shortfalls in the years ahead, especially in the Midwest. Commissioner Moeller stated in his testimony, “There are growing reliability concerns related to the electric industry meeting the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule known as the Mercury and Air Toxics rule. These concerns appear most critical in the Midwest in the footprint of the Mid-Continent Independent System Operator especially approaching the summer of 2016.” Moeller warned of potential rolling blackouts and added, “In the face of these reliability challenges over the next several years, economic regulators and environmental regulators at the federal, state, and local levels must act with urgency when considering proposed solutions to this impending set of challenges.”
The commissioners expounded on FERC’s efforts to respond to challenges posed by the nation’s increasing natural gas supplies. “This flood of domestic gas and oil, combined with new EPA rules has upended utility planning models and market fundamentals. The commission is heavily engaged in the work of assessing and responding to these fuel mix changes,” said Commissioner Clark.
Explaining the challenges in ensuring timely natural gas pipeline permits, Moeller said, “Simply put, the commission is dependent on state and federal agencies to submit timely determinations/conditions as part of the regulatory review of projects. It is especially difficult when these agencies issue their determinations or impose conditions late in the process. In addition, these determinations and conditions may be based on an agency’s specific focus, rather than the balanced review of all public interest considerations that the commission is required by statute to undertake.”
The committee has taken action to help address these pipeline permitting problems. The House recently passed H.R. 1900 to hold agencies more accountable to deadlines, and the committee is considering legislation by Chairman Upton and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) to modernize the permitting process for pipelines and electric transmission lines that cross U.S. borders. Chairman LaFleur said that, with changes, she believed that FERC would “be comfortable operating under the new law.”
FERC is also responsible for siting LNG infrastructure projects, and as a result of the surge in shale gas production, the need for LNG export terminals has developed. Clark stated, “The large amount of natural gas in the U.S. is also creating an impetus for something that was nearly unimaginable ten or fifteen years ago, LNG export, as opposed to import terminals. This is an area of significant workload increase for the commission.” He suggested that there should be additional resources allocated to this work, adding, “Given this influx of natural gas siting work, I believe that the FERC must continually assess our staffing levels and priorities to ensure that we task enough resources to process these projects in a timely and thorough manner. In addition, while the FERC has no control over the other federal agencies that inform our siting processes, I would encourage them to help us by also doing what they can to be timely in their assessment work.”
Chairman Whitfield concluded, “The sectors and industries regulated by FERC comprise a substantial portion of the U.S. economy and infrastructure, so it is critical that FERC carry out its statutory duties independently and effectively, and do so in a manner that will help facilitate our new era of energy abundance.”
→ Speaker.gov | 5 Dec 2013 | 12:06 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Democrats are blocking numerous House-passed bills focused on helping the private-sector grow and create jobs, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said at a press conference today, calling on the president and his party to stop standing in the way of Americans’ top priorities. Following are Boehner’s remarks:
“You know, yesterday President Obama gave a speech about all the problems in the economy under President Obama. It was a clear indication that the president himself believes that his stewardship has been a failure.
“There’s no doubt that, under President Obama, our country has fallen into what I’ll call a new normal: slow economic growth, high unemployment, stagnant wages.
“Listen, the president is more focused on increasing reliance on government programs than pro-growth policies that would create more American jobs and better American wages.
“Republicans continue to focus on strengthening the economy for middle-class families. That’s why we’ve passed nearly 150 bills in this Congress, many of them would help our economy, they’re still sitting in the United States Senate – 150 bills, still sitting over in the Senate.
“Senate Democrats and the president continue to stand in the way of America’s priorities.”
→ Speaker.gov | 5 Dec 2013 | 11:44 am MST
WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement today applauding House passage of the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), bipartisan jobs legislation sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA):
“Frivolous patent lawsuits sap tens of billions of dollars from our economy each year, diverting critical resources away from growing businesses and creating jobs. This bipartisan reform will help businesses large and small beat back abusive litigation, promoting more investment, innovation, and private-sector growth. I’m pleased with today’s bipartisan vote, and hope it will encourage the president and his party’s leaders in the Senate to act on this and the many other House-passed jobs bills awaiting action.”
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 5 Dec 2013 | 11:00 am MST
A new report commissioned by National Ocean Industries Association and the American Petroleum Institute highlights the benefits of expanding access to offshore energy exploration and production. The first of a series of reports on the United States’ offshore energy potential, the study released today projects offshore development along the Atlantic coast and the effects of this development on the economy, job creation, and government revenues.
The Atlantic outer continental shelf has been closed for business as a result of President Obama’s offshore energy plan, which blocks 85 percent of America’s offshore areas from production. The figures in the report – 280,000 jobs, $24 billion in annual economic growth, $51 billion in government revenue, and 1.3 million barrels per day of American oil and natural gas production – underscore the vast benefits of opening access to the Atlantic’s offshore resources and the opportunities forgone by the president’s plan.
The study concluded, “Allowing access to the Atlantic OCS for oil and natural gas exploration and production activities would increase employment, economic activity, and government revenues over the long-term with comparatively little additional spending required by federal and state governments. The nation as a whole, but especially the Atlantic coast states would likely see large employment increases, increased economic activity and increased government revenue as well as increased domestic oil and natural gas production, increasing the nation’s energy security.”
“Americans have endured nearly five years of President Obama’s failed domestic energy plan and today’s report confirms what Louisiana families already know – expanded American energy production will create jobs and jumpstart our economy,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Vice Chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA). “The next frontier in America’s energy renaissance is sitting right off our coast, and will create hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs, while generating billions in new federal revenue to reduce our deficit. The benefits are clear. It’s time for President Obama to get off the sidelines and work with us on a true bipartisan ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy that empowers American families and reduces our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”
To read the full report, click HERE.
→ Speaker.gov | 5 Dec 2013 | 9:40 am MST
Under the headline “Republicans broaden attacks on ObamaCare,” Reuters reported on how Republicans “used hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives to highlight what they say are flaws” in ObamaCare “that go beyond the potentially transitory issues of the website,” long-term problems like the ones these Americans are facing:
- “A small business owner in the Treasure Valley says the Affordable Care Act has made his family's health care coverage much more expensive. … ‘From an emotional point of view, I don't think you can really prepare yourself for it,’ said [Joel] Lund. … ‘This isn't going to work out well at all, it will not be affordable, it will not help, it will be more complicated, and it's going to cause a lot of heartburn,’ said Lund.” (KTVB-TV, Boise, ID)
- “Dr. Robert Parker of Parker Family Eyecare in Kingston will close his private practice by the end of the month. … Parker said it is too burdensome to meet the new federal requirements. ‘It became pretty obvious to me that the better choice was not to continue,’ Parker said. … ‘When they lose that local person that they've gone to for years and has watched their families grow up, you lose a lot of continuity of the care.’” (WBIR-TV, Kingston, TN)
- “‘For me personally, I think it’s a bad thing,’ said Jefferson Community College student Stephanie M. Weed, 23, of the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Weed is putting herself through college by working at a local restaurant and said her employer cut her hours because if she works more than 30 hours a week, the restaurant will have to provide health insurance, which would be too expensive.” (Watertown Daily Times)
- ObamaCare “could soon have a big impact on volunteer fire companies. The fire companies could be forced to pay for healthcare for the volunteers. … Fire Chief Mark Simpson with the Camp Hill Fire Company says most volunteer companies just simply couldn’t afford to pay for healthcare. ‘A lot of them struggle to pay just to operate and training and equipment and there`s no way we could afford to pay healthcare to our members,’ says Chief Mark Simpson, Camp Hill Fire Company.” (FOX43, Central Pennsylvania)
- “One set of small-business owners most likely to be affected are franchisees such as Stephen Bienko of Allamuchy, N.J. … ‘We’re just so darn scared,’ says the College Hunks Hauling Junk franchisee. “I don’t have a team of analysts who can assist in calculating my company’s health-care costs. I’m afraid of making a clerical error that could have catastrophic financial implications.’” (The Wall Street Journal)
- “Veterinarian Merten Pearson is facing a complete change to his healthcare insurance. … Two weeks ago he received a letter that said in January his business is facing anywhere from a 20-50 percent increase in health care premiums. ‘The only way I can support that is charging more to the public for my services and it's all Obamacare is, a big tax thing that’s going to cost you guys, me and everybody money because we have to raise our prices," Pearson said.” (KVII-TV, Amarillo, TX)
UPCOMING OVERSIGHT HEARINGS
Friday, 12/6Field Hearing: ObamaCare Implementation, The Broken Promise: If You Like Your Current Plan You Can Keep It (Apache Junction, AZ)Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
→ Speaker.gov | 5 Dec 2013 | 6:33 am MST
Yesterday here in the Capitol, Speaker Boehner sat down with former Polish president Lech Walesa to talk about democracy and solidarity in Eastern Europe. It was Boehner’s first meeting with the Nobel Peace Prize winner who, as part of the “holy alliance” with President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, helped bring freedom to people in Poland and around the world.
On hand to help greet President Walesa was a person who shares bonds with both leaders. Teo Nowakowski is the mother of the late Paula T. Nowakowski, Boehner’s longtime friend and chief of staff. In addition to being a proud Polish-American – and devoted Detroit Red Wings fan – Paula was a great admirer of the “holy alliance.”
Indeed, Boehner has described Paula as a “warrior for freedom,” and her mother’s own story helps explain why. Though born in the United States, Teo was sent back to Poland at a very young age to live with her Polish grandparents. She lived through the Nazi occupation of Poland, seeing up close the cruelties of the regime. After World War II, she was evacuated from Soviet-occupied Poland back to America, only to watch from afar as the Soviet Union controlled Poland for much of the next half-century.
It was fitting, then, that after today’s meeting, President Walesa and Speaker Boehner signed for Teo – and her pastor, a Polish immigrant – a piece of paper bearing this quote from Pope John Paul II:
“There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us."
→ Speaker.gov | 4 Dec 2013 | 2:41 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today regarding House passage of H.R. 1105, the Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act, sponsored by Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA):
“While the president was giving a speech lamenting the state of his economy, House Republicans continued taking action to make things better for families and small businesses. This legislation would boost our economy by cutting through the red tape that is holding back small business investment and making it harder to create jobs. If the president is serious about turning his economy around, he ought to call on the Democratic-led Senate to take up this measure, along with the many other jobs bills awaiting action in that chamber.”
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 4 Dec 2013 | 2:15 pm MST
Following #CommActUpdate Announcement, Walden Outlines Issues and Path Forward
Walden: “Get outdated government rules off the books so innovators and market disruptors can do what they do and serve their customers.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) on Tuesday announced plans to commence a multi-year effort in pursuit of a #CommActUpdate. This morning, Walden gave the keynote address at the Hudson Institute’s event on “Retransmission Consent in the 21st Century,” outlining a number of issues that are expected to be a part of the larger Communications Act discussion. Walden’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available here.
Upton and Walden unveiled the #CommActUpdate effort via Google Hangout, where the chairmen were also joined by Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.
December 3, 2013
Reps. Walden and Upton pushing for new Communications Act
Two prominent lawmakers want to create a new playbook for the media and telecommunications industries.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, said Tuesday that the Communications Act, last updated in 1996, is in desperate need of a rewrite.
“When the Communications Act was updated almost 18 years ago, no one could have dreamed of the many innovations and advancements that make the Internet what it is today,” Walden said in a statement. “Written during the Great Depression and last updated when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art, the Communications Act is now painfully out of date.”
Upton and Walden held a Google chat and were joined by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who said a rewrite is "absolutely needed" because the current rules are "increasingly irrelevant." …
To read the full article, click here.
December 3, 2013
House lawmakers launch process to update aging communications laws
Goal is to reform law in 2015
Two House Republicans announced an ambitious initiative to rewrite and update the decades-old communications laws that have been overwhelmed by new technologies and new media.
In a Google Hangout Tuesday afternoon, House energy and commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and communications and technology subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said they would begin the process next year with a series of hearings and white papers, in the hopes of ultimately reforming the Communications Act sometime in 2015.
Passed in 1934 during the Great Depression, the Communications Act hasn't had a major update since the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
"We plan to look at the Communications Act and all of the changes that have been made piecemeal over the last 89 years and ask the simple question: Is this working for today's communications marketplace? Our goal is to make sure this critical sector of our economy thrives because of the laws around it, not in spite of them," Walden said.
Former Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell, who joined the two lawmakers on the hangout, warned that it would be a multi-year process.
Of course, no major issue these days is complete without a Twitter hashtag, and lawmakers introduced #CommActUpdate during the hangout. "We want to start a thoughtful process and let everyone have their say," said Walden. …
To read the full article, click here.
December 3, 2013
House to re-write foundational communications law
The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Tuesday that they will begin re-writing the Communications Act, a foundational law that regulates the television, telephone and Internet industries. …
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the communications and technology sectors were "stalwarts of our national economy" throughout the economic downturn.
"We must ensure that our laws make sense for today but are also ready for the innovations of tomorrow,” he said.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said that when the Communications Act was last updated 18 years ago, "no one could have dreamed" of the coming advances in the Internet.
"Written during the Great Depression and last updated when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art, the Communications Act is now painfully out of date,” he said.
The committee will begin its review with a series of hearings and white papers next year. …
Robert McDowell, a former Republican FCC Commissioner who has previously called for a re-write of the Communications Act, joined Upton and Walden for the Google Plus video.
"My hat's off to you. This is going to be a long undertaking and a lot of work, but I'm absolutely thrilled you're watching it," McDowell said.
To read the full article, click here.
December 3, 2013
House Republican leaders announce effort to reform communications law
Signal it will be lengthy process with hearings, papers and public comment
House Republicans Tuesday said they were launching an effort to rewrite communications law that has been outstripped by technology and innovation.
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) used a Google Hangout event Tuesday to announce the launch of a process to reform the Communications Act in 2015.
They said that process would include a series of hearings in 2014, white papers on the state of the industry, and input from the public via #CommActUpdate.
Former FCC Commmissioner Robert McDowell joined in to give his thumbs up on the effort, which he said would be a long—multi-year—process. …
To read the full article, click here.
December 3, 2013
Communications Act to be updated for 21st century
Congress will review the Communications Act for the first time in 18 years to bring it up-to-date for dynamic nature of the Internet era, announced Reps. Fred Upton, D-Mich, and Greg Walden, R-Ore., Thursday via Google Hangout.
The respective Chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Communications and Technology Subcommittee, joined by former Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Robert McDowell, did not outline specific goals, but said it will be a multi-year examination of the law.
They said the hallmark act for the communications industry--first passed in 1934 and overhauled in 1996--is insufficient to meet the needs of the 21st century communications marketplace.
"Written during the Great Depression and last updated when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art, the Communications Act is now painfully out of date," Walden said. "Our goal is to make sure this critical sector of our economy thrives because of the laws around it, not in spite of them."
To read the full article, click here.
Health Subcommittee Finds Health Law’s #BrokenPromises Will Soon Hit Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 4 Dec 2013 | 1:12 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), today examined how the president’s health care law will impact the Medicare Advantage program and what beneficiaries should expect in the coming year. The health care law raided $700 billion from Medicare, including $300 billion from Medicare Advantage alone, in order to fund the new entitlement. These cuts will begin to be fully realized in the next year, and seniors and disabled Americans who rely on Medicare Advantage will soon suffer the consequences. Today’s hearing underscored recent revelations that the president’s promises that you could keep your doctor and you could keep your health care plan will not hold true.
Chairman Pitts stated, “A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation warned that more than half a million beneficiaries may have to switch to another MA plan or return to fee-for-service Medicare in 2014, as a result of ACA. In addition to plan availability, questions are now being raised about the possibility of rising costs and limited provider networks in the future as more ACA-mandated cuts go into effect.”
Subcommittee Vice Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) noted, “It appears in Washington today there is a crisis in confidence. The president has sold the Affordable Care Act on just a raft of false premises. You can keep your plan, false. You can keep your doctor, false. These are broken promises and these, in fact, are the opportunity costs that Americans are paying for the Affordable Care Act. There was a promise made to seniors as well. The promise was that we’re going to use your Medicare dollars as a piggy bank to fund the Affordable Care Act, and in doing that we’ll improve Medicare and allow seniors to keep their doctors if they liked. So, do you have an opinion as to whether or not this is another broken promise?”
Doug Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum, responded, “It is. … The regulations and the funding are at odds with the promise. The promise can’t be held true.”
Watch the complete exchange here.
Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented, “Empty promises may be of little concern to this administration, but they have real consequences for the Americans who expect Washington to do no harm. Americans deserve to know why their existing coverage is changing when they were promised otherwise.”
Holtz-Eakin explained that those hurt by this broken promise are among the nation’s most vulnerable. “The Medicare Advantage cuts are already having a negative impact on enrollment and seniors’ plan choice. Those most hurt by the cuts are low-income seniors in rural areas without other options for supplemental Medicare coverage. Additional scheduled cuts in the future will broaden the damage to Medicare Advantage.”
The Medicare Advantage program has been extremely popular and successful and should serve as a model for reforming the Medicare program broadly. The cuts made in the health care law, however, threaten the future of the already strained program.
Robert Margolis, CEO of HealthCare Partners and Co-Chairman of DaVita HealthCare Partners, testified, “The MA program is under severe stress due to a number of cumulative cuts to the program, including reductions to MA plan benchmarks; coding intensity adjustment; changes to CMS’s risk adjustment methodology; sequestration; and the tax on health insurers. Benchmark reductions alone were intended to bring MA to parity with the original Medicare. Additional layered reductions cut deeply into the MA program and flow to patients in the form of fewer physician choices, fewer benefits and increased patient costs. The cuts have the net effect of pushing seniors away from MA and into the fragmented FFS delivery model.”
Chairman Pitts explained, “MA plans may offer additional benefits not provided under Medicare FFS, such as reduced cost sharing or vision and dental coverage. They also generally have a high rate of satisfaction, and approximately 28 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have chosen to participate in Medicare Advantage.”
Jon Kaplan, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Boston Consulting Group, added, “Medicare Advantage plans are an example of a successful public-private partnership. These plans represent an integrated care-delivery model that uses effective provider incentives, real-time clinical data and analysis, and care coordination capabilities to improve quality and lower costs. Medicare Advantage plans also represent a proven model from which the entire system can learn.”
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 4 Dec 2013 | 11:24 am MST
The National Association of Manufacturers this week released a new report which found the Obama administration’s “unreasonable” delays in approving export projects for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal could conflict with World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. A key provision of the WTO agreements bans certain export restrictions, and the report, authored by former WTO Appellate Body Chairman and former Democratic member of the House James Bacchus, concluded, “the implementation of U.S. rules in ways that unnecessarily impede exports of LNG and coal likely violate WTO trade rules.”
Through his analysis, Bacchus found, “In the case of LNG, the chief obstacle confronting export projects is a federal determination of whether the export of gas is consistent with the ‘public interest’—an ambiguous and discretionary threshold. In the case of coal, federal law imposes no significant restrictions on the export of coal itself; however, coal export projects are confronting delays related to analysis of their potential environmental impacts. In both instances, the implementation of U.S. laws and related delays in licensing and permitting are impeding these projects and risk running afoul of our international obligations under the WTO.”
NAM’s study shines a new light on the regulatory barriers blocking the export of American coal and natural gas. The Energy and Power Subcommittee has been examining barriers to exports and the need for updated policies as America enters a new age of energy abundance. The subcommittee has heard from market analysts, American manufacturers, and foreign leaders about the tremendous benefits U.S. energy exports could bring to our domestic economy and around the globe.
NAM and other stakeholders have urged the federal government to allow the free market to govern exports rather than distorting legal and regulatory barriers. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) stated previously at a hearing, “The cumbersome federal approval process is out of step with where we are as an energy-producing nation today. … The private sector has made rapid progress in unlocking our energy abundance. What the American people now need is a regulatory process that can keep up with this evolving energy landscape.”
→ Energy & Commerce Committee - United States House of Representatives <br/>Chairman Fred Upton | 3 Dec 2013 | 4:06 pm MST
WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on “The FTC at 100: Where Do We Go From Here?” Today’s hearing kicked off a series examining the work of the Federal Trade Commission as the agency approaches its 100th anniversary next year. The subcommittee is examining the commission’s mission, operating budget, and statutory authorities and what improvements are needed to help the agency protect consumers and promote competition in an ever-changing market. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez testified today alongside commissioners Julie Brill, Maureen K. Ohlhausen, and Joshua D. Wright.
The FTC was originally established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act to enforce competition law and prevent anti-competitive business practices, but over the past 100 years, the commission’s authority has evolved and it now employs broad jurisdiction across most sectors of the economy.
“We all have a stake in the FTC’s current mission to promote consumer welfare by ensuring that business practices in the United States are fair and transparent—while also addressing any market collusion or anti-competitive activity that could unfairly fix prices at a higher level than the market would otherwise demand,” said Terry. “However, like all entities in the government, prioritization of goals is critical. Not only are the FTC’s resources finite, but also the sheer breadth of the FTC’s jurisdiction makes it necessary.”
“From the smallest, independent corner store to the largest industry, from online data collection to multi-million dollar merger reviews, the FTC is charged with ensuring industry players play fair, competition thrives, and that consumers enjoy the fruits of that competition as well as protection from fraudsters. Of course, with such great power comes equal concern about the appropriate use of that power and potential consequences for job creation and economic growth,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
Speaking to the commission’s current consumer priorities, Chairwoman Ramirez said, “In recent years, the FTC has emphasized protecting financially distressed consumers from fraud, stopping harmful uses of technology, protecting consumer privacy and data security, prosecuting false or deceptive health claims, and safeguarding children in the marketplace.”
One of the challenges facing the FTC is the ability to protect consumers as technology rapidly evolves. As consumers spend more and more of their time online and on mobile devices, privacy and security concerns have increased. The FTC is now convening meetings to explore how to address problems created by emerging technologies. “The agency convenes public meetings, such as its recent workshop exploring the Internet of Things, to gather information from those at the cutting edge of technological advances. These meetings help the agency to identify the consumer protection and competition issues that may be raised by the use of new technology,” said Ramirez. Members of the subcommittee stressed the need for the commission to approach online privacy concerns in a way that protects consumers without harming competition. The subcommittee has also convened a bipartisan privacy working group to examine these issues.
Members questioned the commissioners about the FTC’s use of enforcement authorities under Section 5 of the FTC Act – an important tool that could prevent unfair and deceptive activities like patent trolling and pyramid schemes. Commissioner Wright urged the commission to adopt guidelines outlining its authority to combat “unfair methods of competition” just as it did for its “unfair and deceptive” authority. He said, “As the FTC enters its second century, it is an appropriate time to reflect upon whether the agency’s enforcement and policy tools are being put to the best possible use to help the agency fulfill its mission. One of these tools—the commission’s authority to prosecute unfair methods of competition as stand alone violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act—is a particular suitable candidate for evaluation. The historical record reveals an unfortunate gap between the theoretical promise of Section 5 as articulated by Congress and its application in practice by the FTC. The gap has grown large in part due to the persistent absence of any meaningful guidance articulating what constitutes an unfair method of competition.”
Chairman Terry committed to working with the commissioners as the subcommittee continues its review of the agency and looks at potential legislation to modernize the FTC.
-- Finis --