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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.

News

Caspian Sea deal prompted by pressure on Iran

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Caspian Sea deal prompted by pressure on Iran

It was supposed to be the deal that never came to be. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea has been hotly disputed by 2, then 3, then 5 countries claiming rights to its resource-rich seabed and sturgeon-filled waters. Oil, natural gas, and caviar-producing fish are abundant, making it one of the most coveted landlocked bodies of water in the world.

Suddenly, a deal has apparently been reached.

Caspian Sea: Five countries sign deal to end dispute

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-45162282Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all bordering the Caspian Sea – have agreed in principle on how to divide it up.

Their leaders signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in the Kazakh city of Aktau on Sunday.

What changed? Why all of a sudden did Iran, the biggest roadblock in reaching a deal because they have the smallest coastline on the Caspian, have a change of heart and push the deal forward? The answer can be found in recent sanctions from the United States and a chance that others may sanction them as well.

Despite denials, Iran is in a deepening economic crisis. Little is known about how deep it really is, but they are feeling the heat and likely did not properly save the massive amounts of money released to them by the last U.S. administration. Now, they need friends and fresh commerce to mitigate the damage.

Russia knows this and are behind the scenes giving Iran just enough aid to stay afloat. They will exert as much control over the situation in the Middle East as they can and a desperate Iran is just the in they need. They’ve been partners in Syria until recently. Now, they have the upper hand.

While news of the Caspian Sea deal will go unnoticed by most, it’s a pretty big deal. It gets Iran a boost they need even if it’s not the deal they wanted. It also lets Russia creep closer and closer to being a real power in the Middle East.

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Economy

Trump expects Harley to lose money on his behalf one way or the other

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Trump expects Harley to lose money on his behalf one way or the other

American motorcycle motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson is in a tough spot. Tariffs imposed from Europe against imported motorcycles in response to President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have forced Harley to consider moving some production to Europe to avoid the tariffs. It’s a fair response, but the President is having none of it.

He has ratcheted up calls to boycott Harley over the potential move.

It’s imperative for President Trump’s reelection that these tariffs work. If they have the expected effect of bringing some jobs back while pushing others away, then they will be painted by the media as a failure. He knows this and therefore must do everything he can to keep jobs in America even if it means painting one of the most beloved American companies as the bad guys.

Trump backs boycott of Harley Davidson in steel tariff dispute

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-harley-davidson-tariffs-trump/trump-backs-boycott-of-harley-davidson-in-steel-tariff-dispute-idUSKBN1KX0J9The Wisconsin-based motorcycle manufacturer announced a plan earlier this year to move production of motorcycles for the European Union from the United States to its overseas facilities to avoid the tariffs imposed by the trading bloc in retaliation for Trump’s duties on steel and aluminum imports.

In response, Trump has criticized Harley Davidson, calling for higher, targeted taxes and threatening to lure foreign producers to the United States to increase competition.

My Take

What does he expect them to do? They will lose tens of millions of dollars if they continue to try to export motorcycles to Europe. They will lose even more if they stop selling motorcycles in Europe. If they try to mitigate the damage by moving some operations to Europe, the President wants them to lose money as a result. This, too, will likely result in cuts to the workforce.

In other words, President Trump will make certain Harley Davidson, an iconic American company, loses money and cuts American jobs no matter which direction they go. If he has an alternative for them that does not hurt Americans, I’m sure they’re all ears.

Most tariffs are bad in the 21st century. It’s impractical to believe we can maintain our supremacy as the world’s consumer if we continue to slap tariffs on some of our best trading partners. He either lacks the understanding of how this all works or has chosen to ignore the facts for the sake of spinning it for votes when his term concludes.

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News

Omarosa releases recording of her firing, looks worse as a result

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Omarosa releases recording of her firing looks worse as a result

When the headline came across the wire that Omarosa Manigault-Newman released a secret recording of her firing, most expected it to have some dirt on Chief of Staff John Kelly or even President Trump. It definitely had dirt. Unfortunately for her, it was all on her.

The goal of releasing the tape was allegedly to clear her name of reports she stormed through the White House setting off alarms and had to be removed physically by the Secret Service. It was a story that most probably forgot about until now. Then, it was revealed in the tape that she was fired over serious “integrity issues.”

Here’s the important portion of the video.

Even leftist journalist Chuck Todd had to point out there’s nothing out of the ordinary with a Chief of Staff running the staff, as they’re supposed to do.

 

One portion the media is latching onto for headlines is her claim that President Trump is “mentally declined.”

This will likely help her sell more books, of course. But the cost to her own reputation is making it difficult to believe this was a good move in the long term. NY Post columnist Karol Markowicz summed the whole Omarosa ordeal up nicely in one Tweet:

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