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Stop playing around, Congress still has work to do

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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.

Perspectives

CHIP, FAA Face Deadlines This Week | Joe Williams, Roll Call

http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/chip-faa-face-deadlines-this-week?utm_source=rollcallheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=rollcallheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newslettersWith 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

https://www.medpagetoday.com/publichealthpolicy/repeal-and-replace/68107“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

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/catholic-poverty-advocates-fear-childrens-insurance-program-could-be-cancelledThe 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

http://www.aviationnews.net/index.cfm?do=headline&news_ID=268448The 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

http://www.concordmonitor.com/Fix-the-funding-cliff-12675056Community 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

https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2017/09/25/distracted-lawmakers-overlook-clinic-childrens-health-bills/“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.

Culture and Religion

Elizabeth Warren releases DNA proof that she’s at least 1/1024th Native American. Twitter responds appropriately.

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Elizabeth Warren releases DNA proof that shes at least 11024th Native American Twitter responds appr

There’s a strategist in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s ear who thought it was a good idea to release results of a DNA test showing a likelihood that one of her very distant descendants was Native American. The advice taken. The results were predictable.

The test shows she is at most 1/32nd Native American if she is six generations from her Native American ancestor. That’s her best-case scenario. At worst, her ancestor was as far back as ten generations which would make her 1/1024th Native American. To put that into perspective, if she were to honor her heritage by engaging in 1/1024th of a four-hour Native American Sweat, she’d be in and out of the lodge in 14 seconds.

Elizabeth Warren releases results of DNA test on Native American ancesty

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2018/10/15/warren-addresses-native-american-issue/YEUaGzsefB0gPBe2AbmSVO/story.htmlThe inherent imprecision of the six-page DNA analysis could provide fodder for Warren’s critics. If her great-great-great-grandmother was Native American, that puts her at 1/32nd American Indian. But the report includes the possibility that she’s just 1/1024th Native American if the ancestor is 10 generations back.

Undergoing the test and releasing the results reveal how seriously Warren is taking the attacks from Trump, who has been able to effectively caricature and diminish his national foes via nicknames and conspiracy theories. Trump pushed then President Barack Obama into releasing the long form of his birth certificate to prove what most knew was already true: He was born in America.

This publicity stunt was designed to let everyone know she’s serious about running for President in 2020. She wanted to be able to call out President Trump on his promise to give $1,000,000 to charity if she could prove Native American heritage. He won’t pay, of course, which will get plenty of headlines calling him a deal-breaking scoundrel, but was it really if for her to be the focus of even more jokes on social media?

Here are some of the reactions on Twitter. You decide:

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Foreign Affairs

President dispatches Pompeo after talking to Saudi King

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President dispatches Pompeo after talking to Saudi King

President Trump is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey claims to have ample evidence that the Saudis murdered Khashoggi at their consulate in Istanbul.

The situation is tense as pressure mounts for actions to be taken against Saudi Arabia. The Saudis fired back with threats of their own if such actions are taken. All of this is happening against a backdrop of increased engagement between Saudi Arabia and the United States as they work to put together a Middle East peace agreement.

Turkey claims to have a recording of Khashoggi’s murder captured on his Apple Watch. They also have the identities of a 15-man “kill team” that was allegedly sent to the consulate to capture and torture Khashoggi. Video shows him going into the consulate with his fiancee remaining outside, but no footage has been released of him leaving the consulate and his fiancee hasn’t seen him since. Turkey claims Saudi Arabia has sufficient surveillance cameras at the consulate that could prove he left, but the Saudis claim the equipment was not recording during his visit.

My Take

The White House is trying to sweep this under the rug. As obtuse as the Saudi government has been for decades, their strategic and economic importance to the United States is great. The last thing the White House wants is to be forced to choose between their close ally and public outcry, most of which is demanding repercussions in light of the alleged evidence.

Turkey has been adamant that their theory is correct.

At some point, we’re going to have to cut ties with Saudi Arabia unless drastic changes are made. Changes are underway, but they seem too slow to compensate for the backwards nature of the country. It’s time to just cut them loose now.

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Guns and Crime

Why isn’t Katie Brennan’s #MeToo accusation getting national attention?

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It’s the type of story that should have received national attention immediately. It was sourced by a respected major news outlet, the Wall Street Journal. Both the accuser and the accused are high-ranking public official in New Jersey’s government. The accused stepped down two weeks ago when approached by WSJ for comment. Katie Brennan’s story is a major newsworthy scandal.

As of Monday morning, a day after the story officially broke and four days after it was leaked to other major news outlets, both mainstream media and the #MeToo movement are essentially silent.

That will change soon, possibly today. Brennan, a prominent volunteer for Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign and current Chief of Staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, released this statement:

On April 8th, 2017, Al Alvarez raped me. On April 9th, 2017 I learned that the system is broken.

I have pursued every form of justice available. But it has become clear that this system is not built for survivors.

The details of the assault portrayed in reporter Kate King’s Wall Street Journal report published today are accurate. But to date, I have received no justice.

I decided to come forward because I know that Al Alvarez, and all perpetrators, must be held accountable, must never rape again, and the justice system needs a complete change with regard to sexual violence.

New Jersey residents are only given a two-year window to file a civil suit. After spending an entire year pursuing a criminal case before hitting a dead end, I am left with less than one year to pursue civil action.

It is clear that leadership from the Murphy administration is needed to create meaningful policy change on several levels to make sure future victims do not have to endure what I have. I urge Gov. Murphy and the Attorney General’s Office to eliminate the statute of limitations on civil action related to sexual assault, and to direct prosecutors to be more aggressive in taking on these criminal cases. Further, the Murphy administration and the General Assembly should pursue legislation to ensure New Jersey’s police and other first responders are better trained to handle sexual assault victims.

Finally, sexual predators like Al Alvarez are only able to stay in power when those around them do nothing. Several senior level members of the Murphy administration were aware of my assault and failed to take meaningful action. Al Alvarez remained employed at a senior level in the Murphy administration until just a few weeks ago, when he knew the Wall Street Journal article was coming out and opted to resign. The failure of members of Gov. Murphy’s staff to respond in an aggressive, proactive fashion is unacceptable.

To other sexual assault survivors in New Jersey, I urge you to join me in coming forward if you are able. I will stand with you, because when we stand together, we are safer and stronger. Our voice is our power. Together, we can finally receive the justice we all deserve.

Murphy has not commented other than saying Alvarez should not have been hired. He was made aware of a “sensitive matter” that needed to be discussed by Brennan in June and claimed his staff would set up a meeting. That was the last Brennan heard from Murphy.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of aide sex assault allegation questioned

https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/governor/2018/10/14/murphys-handling-sexual-assault-allegation-called-into-question/1642517002/His accuser, Katie Brennan, was a Murphy campaign volunteer who said she spent more than a year seeking action against Alvarez for the alleged sexual assault before directly emailing Phil and Tammy Murphy in June. Phil Murphy responded within the hour, according to the Journal.

“Hang in,” he wrote. “We are on it.”

But Alvarez remained in his $140,000-a-year position until October. The alleged assault happened in April 2017.

Standards set by the #MeToo movement dictate that credible accusations should be believed. Brennan appears to be extremely credible, having reported her rape immediately after it allegedly occurred. Alvarez offered a $15,000 settlement that would have been attached to a non-disclosure agreement, which Brennan refused.

Where is MSNBC? Where is CNN? Where is Alyssa Milano?

Social media is starting to take notice. In particular, they’re going after Murphy and his wife for speaking out in support of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.

Katie Brennan

My Take

I am a strong proponent for what the #MeToo movement once promoted and how it started. The original intent was to embolden women who had experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of men in power over them. The goal was to give courage to those who were in very tough situations.

Recently, the #MeToo movement has been weaponized. I’m not going to draw comparisons between accusations against Kavanaugh and Alvarez. That would be unfair to Ford since Brennan’s accusations against Alvarez are much more recent and have the benefit of an immediate report to the authorities. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as of now, either the story hasn’t reached the right people or the right people have chosen to ignore it.

We can’t let them.

It’s not as if this is a political hit job against Democrats. Brennan’s image was used in Murphy’s campaign handouts and she was outspoken as a “Young Democrat of the Week” in New Jersey as a result.

Katie Brennan NJ Democrat

I don’t like when something as heinous as rape gets politicized, but silence from mainstream media and the #MeToo movement is deafening. Would they be avoiding the story if Brennan had accused a Republican?

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