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Stop playing around, Congress still has work to do



In normal times, this is a busy week for Congress. Obviously, we’re not in normal times, but that doesn’t change the fact that Congress has end-of-fiscal-year funding issues to deal with.

Two of the major issues are funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and authorizations for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and community health center. These expire on Sep. 30, this Saturday.

The Senate will be tied up with amendments and debate on the now-doomed Graham-Cassidy health care proposal, leaving precious little time for necessary items that require some kind of bipartisan effort. In its usual kick-the-can-down-the-road approach, the full House has scheduled a skinny six-month extension for the FAA authorization. Despite approval by both the Senate Commerce and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, this could come down to the wire.

CHIP is a harder problem to crack. Since it’s a Medicaid-related program, it’s stuck in the health care vortex, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee hasn’t even approved a markup for the full House to vote on. The bipartisan effort led by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden to renew CHIP for five years is stalled in committee. Any renewal will likely be retroactive after funding expires on Saturday, unless the Senate somehow catches up on its homework.

The same with $3.6 billion in federal funding for community health centers.

It doesn’t help that the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, begins on Sep. 29, ending at sunset on Sep. 30. Observant Jewish members of Congress won’t be able to participate in last minute discussions and votes.


CHIP, FAA Face Deadlines This Week | Joe Williams, Roll Call the Republicans’ last-gasp effort to undo the 2010 health care law fizzling, Congress may now try to pass short-term extensions to avoid running aground on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Aviation Administration and community health centers, authorizations for which expire at the end of the month.

Repeal-Replace Effort Leaves Other Health Measures Hanging | Medpage Today“In Nevada, CHIP provides coverage for roughly 25,000 children,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). “Nevada has made great strides in improving its uninsured rate … My hope is that Congress will act swiftly … to give families in Nevada and across the country the certainty they need with regard to children’s healthcare.”

“We know that before CHIP was created, millions of hardworking families couldn’t take their children to the doctor and get them the care they needed,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). In that state, 97% of children can go to the doctor.

Catholic poverty advocates fear children’s insurance program could be cancelled | Heidi Schumpf, National Catholic Reporter Children’s Health Insurance Program “is as American as apple pie,” said Lucas Allen, a healthcare fellow at NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization. “We support these kinds of bipartisan compromises that are too rare in our health care debate right now.”

Congress to Consider Six-Month FAA Extension House is expected to pass the new extension next Monday or Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to clear it before the current stopgap measure expires on September 30. Another short-term FAA extension will give lawmakers more time to work on a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill. That legislation has been held up over Shuster’s controversial proposal to corporatize the Air Traffic Control system.

My Turn: Fix health center funding cliff | Tess Stack Kuenning, Concord Monitor health centers in New Hampshire and across the nation are at tremendous risk. Without Congress’s action by Sept. 30, health center funding will immediately be cut by 70 percent.

In New Hampshire, 12 federally funded health centers provide primary care, substance use disorder treatment, oral health services and behavioral health services to over 89,000 citizens in underserved areas.

Granite Staters will lose access to health care services when we need them the most, in the midst of an opioid epidemic, if the funding cliff isn’t fixed.

“Distracted” Lawmakers Overlook Clinic, Children’s Health Bills | Rose Hoban, North Carolina Health News“So, losing 1.1 million equates to us not being able to see about 1,000 patients a year,” Schwartz said. “I’m immediately on a hiring freeze, won’t be able to replace or likely may have to reduce staffing.”

“We try to get our federal funding down, but there are many health centers… that are truly seeing 60, 70, 80 percent sliding fee patients,” she said, noting for many of those centers, the grant funding represents as much as 50 percent of their annual revenue.

Final Thoughts

Congress needs to button down and get out of its political rabbit hole. The Graham-Cassidy bill is essentially dead, so why is the Senate spending time on it when other items require immediate attention? The FAA and community health centers are really top-level needs that serve national priorities. As for CHIP, without an Obamacare replacement (a real one), I don’t see how we can avoid renewing it.

For Congress to miss these no-brainers in favor of political grandstanding is why many Americans have so little faith in our political system.

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Working While Conservative: Fired Google Engineer’s “Discriminatory” Memo Justified Firing, Says NLRB



A Google engineer was not wrongfully fired for writing a memo criticizing the company’s diversity policies and explaining biological differences between male and female employees, ruled a National Labor Relations Board lawyer this week.

The NLRB lawyer, Jayme Sophir, wrote that the tech giant lawfully fired James Damore for his “discriminatory statements.” She found that Damore’s now-legendary memo contained statements “so harmful, discriminatory and disruptive” that they are not protected by federal labor law.

Fired Google Engineer Loses Diversity Memo Challenge – Bloomberg in James Damore’s 3,000-word memo “regarding biological differences between the sexes were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive” that they fell outside protections for collective action in the workplace, an associate general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board wrote in a six-page memo disclosed Thursday.

When he was dismissed in August, Damore accused Google of violating the employee right to engage in “concerted activity” to address workplace issues, a category which the labor board has found can include forms of activism ranging from lawsuits to strikes to social media posts.

“Much of” Damore’s memo was probably protected under the law, the labor board’s attorney, Jayme Sophir, said in the Jan. 16 memo. But Sophir went on to find that Google discharged Damore only for his “discriminatory statements,” which aren’t shielded by labor law.

Because companies have a duty to comply with equal employment laws and an interest in promoting diversity, “employers must be permitted to ‘nip in the bud’ the kinds of employee conduct that could lead to a ‘hostile workplace,’ rather than waiting until an actionable hostile workplace has been created before taking action,” Sophir wrote.

The company “carefully tailored” its messages in firing Damore and in addressing employees afterward “to affirm their right to engage in protected speech while prohibiting discrimination or harassment.” Google also disciplined one of Damore’s co-workers for sending him a threatening email in response to the memo, Sophir said.

Sophir is a Deputy Associate General Counsel at the NLRB. She has been an NLRB lawyer since 1988 and a practicing lawyer since 1985.

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Trump endorses PA Senate candidate Lou Barletta



In an effort to increase the Red Tide, Trump tweeted an endorsement of Lou Barletta who is looking for a promotion to the Senate. It’s important to note that a Trump endorsement via twitter isn’t the most solid form of in writing. Kelli Ward of Arizona received such praise but that was before Joe Arpaio threw his hat in. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania is a winnable election for the GOP looking to increase their majority in the Senate as it swung for Trump in 2016. In Trump’s endorsement, he not only praises Lou Barletta but also tears at incumbent Democrat, Bob Casey.

Who is Lou Barletta?

Representing the eleventh District in Pennsylvania is Lou Barletta. The mention of the early support indicates that this is a loyalty move by Trump. If nothing else, Trump does consistently reward loyalty. However, is Trump loyalty synonymous with conservatism? Let’s dig deeper into his record. On social media the self-proclaimed resistance calls him a Nazi. But no evidence really exist for that, nor does his voting record indicate a belief in supremacy of the white race. On the contrary, Lou Barletta is an influential Congressman of issues of energy and coal. But his voting record is not one of limiting the size of government or fiscal conservatism. The Conservative Review scores Lou Barletta at 43% on his Liberty Score. For Pennsylvania that would be an improvement from Bob Casey who is at 8%. The Liberty Score compiles the previous fifty major votes and scores politicians. What’s not include thus far is the recent budget and debt ceiling talks. But there is the reauthorization of FISA which Barletta supported.

Barletta is loyal to Trump, likely as his record shows he is unwilling to buck the powers that be. He was loyal to John Boehner, uninterested in removing the IRS Commissioner, and a member of the GOP who would surrender to Obama on multiple occasions. By itself, Lou Barletta is unwilling to fund Planned Parenthood. In a bigger bill, Barletta votes in favor of abortion funding. On spending increases and subsidies, Barletta has stood in favor. I could dig deeper, but the overall picture shows Barletta’s unwillingness to go against the Whitehouse whether they are Republican or Democrat and a lack of conservatism in either case.

The Other Candidates

Barletta stands as the most formidable candidate. He has major endorsements and money. Number two on the list is a businessman, Paul Addis. This would be an political outsider running for office. His priorities is the military, but by his own website has few actual positions. There is not enough evidence to suggest that Addis is a conservative candidate. Looking for promotion is Jim Christiana, a state representative. Scorecards from the American Conservative Union and the National Federation of Independent Businesses ranks Christiana favorably. In the most recent scorecard, 2016, Christiana voted to protect the unborn and made efforts to kill a gun control measure. The other benefit is his youth!

My Take of the Race

Jim Christiana is the conservative choice in this race, but Lou Barletta stands the best chance to win because Jim Christiana doesn’t have a whole lot of cash. Barletta is also a fairly talented campaigner. But first and foremost, he is a loyalist. If the other candidates fail to up their social media game, Barletta could run away with this. And if he wins, we’ll just have a Democrat vs a RINO come November.

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Conservative endorsements split in Arizona Special Election



Congressmen Trent Frank’s sex scandal has led to quite a feeding frenzy to replace him. This would make Arizona District 8 the ninth Congressional special election for Congress since Trump’s inauguration. The solid red district voted Republican by at least a 20 point margin in the last three presidential elections. Democrats stand little chance in this elections. So the competition is which Republican gets the privilege of an easy path to being a Congressman. The replacement will most likely be decided on Tuesday, February 27th. The field of over a dozen candidates can be narrowed down to a few serious contenders. The most serious contenders appear to be Debbie LeskoPhil Lovas, and Steve Montenegro. All three claim to be conservatives and none of them are obvious establishment players like Martha McSally in Arizona’s Senate race. In this wide-open race with no clear front-runner, endorsements and finances may likely decide the winner.

Fulfilling both of these keys to victory is Ted Cruz. His champion: Steve Montenegro. Ted Cruz endorsed the candidate and his Super PAC currently has $83000 invested in this primary. However, that is all of the credibility capital Montenegro can boast. His other endorsements make him seem like a rabble-rousing Trump sycophant. They include Rick Santorum, the disgraced Trent Frank, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Steve Montenegro’s conservative status doesn’t seem questionable until you see his past support for a popular vote. This raises some major questions.

Phil Lovas, on the other hand, doesn’t have flashy endorsements but has the nod from Arizona state officials such as Jeff DeWit. Jeff DeWitt was also the national COO/CFO for the Trump campaign. In the live-streamed debate, Phil Lovas boasted his early support for Trump as an outsider. This lends credibility to Lovas, but Trump loyalty isn’t a question among any of the major candidates. All three boast that they will support Trump, meaning these Republicans are saying they aren’t RINOs which is what most say.

In contrast, Debbie Lesko has no shortage of national and local endorsements in this race. She lists them in her article:

I am honored to have the endorsement of former Gov. Jan Brewer and many local leaders including Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord, Litchfield Park Mayor Tom Schoaf and Goodyear Vice Mayor Wally Campbell. I’ve also been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, a national prolife organization, and Congressmen Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who are the founding members of the conservative U.S. House Freedom Caucus of which Trent Franks was a member. These people know that I have a proven track record of working for my constituents, fighting for the values that have made our nation great and getting things done.

On top of these endorsements, there is also Andy Biggs from the Freedom Caucus. Debbie Lesko certainly benefits from being a major player in Arizona state politics. She has a record of fiscal conservatism in the state legislature and is pro-life.

This race, like the Missouri Senate race, has a social media darling. A “life coach” by the name of Brenden Dilley is on the ballot. However, this social media candidate upped his rhetoric to win the Trump supporter pissing contest. He livestreamed the debate among the candidates that took place last Saturday. Steve Montenegro skipped the debate. Though it was a poor quality (and immaturely done) live stream, I heard Debbie Lesko appeal to her endorsements as credibility and tell a more down to earth story of her becoming a politician. “We need good politicians,” she told the crowd. She even jabbed Arizona’s Senators, John McCain, and Jeff Flake.


My Take

It’s hard for conservatives to unite in such a feeding frenzy of a race. In truth, some of the unnamed candidates are likely true conservatives worthy of the office. So perhaps ideology shouldn’t be the deciding factor here. Perhaps conservatives should unite around the candidate most able to accomplish what they campaign on and least likely to act a fool. I think Debbie Lesko stands the best chance to do both. Phil Lovas seems like he would be loyal to Trump, but that’s not a value proposition for a candidate. At this moment, Steve Montenegro’s endorsements hinder him, especially Joe Arpaio. I think Cruz chose a shady candidate. This race is interesting because big names have chosen sides against each other. In recruiting reliable conservatives to join the few in Congress, I trust the Freedom Caucus over Ted Cruz. And I believe they aren’t doing a bad job endorsing Debbie Lesko.

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