Trump's latest campaign stop in a nutshell

  • The only way “Crooked Hillary” could draw a crowd was by inviting Jay-Z, and the rapper used “filthy” language.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is an “MS-13 lover.”
  • Crazy Bernie” Sanders (I) still doesn’t know why he lost.
  • Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) “thumbs down” on the floor of the Senate to sink the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal and replacement effort “cost our country a lot.”
  • Former President George W. Bush is to blame for the “death and blood” in the Middle East.
  • Democrats “had people infiltrating our campaign.”
  • Trump has not lost his vigor for attacking the press. Rally-goers booed the media mercilessly after the president singled out the “fake news.”

The boasts

  • Trump described himself as “the only politician who produced more than I said I’d produce.”
  • The president’s speech focused on what he identified as his accomplishments, with highlights going to the economy, the jobless rate, the tax cuts, judicial appointments and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
  • Trump said his achievement include “surging” optimism, “restored respect” and “booming prosperity.”

A focus on immigration and safety

  • From border security to gang violence, Trump is touting himself as the only person who will keep America safe.
  • Mexico, in his telling, is still going to pay for the wall “and they’re going to enjoy it.”
  • The U.S. is deporting “thousands and thousands” of MS-13 gang members. The crowd shouted “animals” at Trump’s prompting.
  • “We’ve stopped it,” Trump said of chain migration.
  • The president also said violent crime is down pretty much everywhere, except for Chicago. “If you want to be safe you’ve got to go out and get the Democrats the hell out of Congress.”

Familiar notes for an enthusiastic crowd

  • “We always proudly stand for our national anthem.”
  •  “You won’t have a Second Amendment if the Democrats take over.”
  •  “I love country music,” Trump said in the Music City. The president was introduced by country star and “The Apprentice” winner Trace Adkins, who performed songs focused on veterans and pride in the military.

Why Do Sen Daphne Campbell's African American Peers endorse her after she is exposed as corrupt and just evil

State Sen. Daphne Campbell is pictured. | AP Photo

Corrupt state Sen. Daphne Campbell worked for years to push legislation sought by an organization whose president handed her a purse stuffed with cash during a 2017 birthday party that doubled as a political fundraiser, according to public records and interviews with those familiar with the bill.
The Miami Democrat had been lobbying for years to pass the bill to make it easier for foreign doctors to get licensed in the United States. But she never told legislative colleagues what organizations were behind the effort.
Lawmakers contacted by POLITICO were “shocked” when they discovered the bill was for a man seen in a 2017 video handing Campbell a purse stuffed with cash. The video, which was taken at a birthday held for Campbell, was first reported last month by the Miami Herald.
“She has been pushing that bill for years but members had no idea it was for the cash purse guy,” said one Republican consultant familiar with the bill, which never got to the floor of either chamber for a vote.
The bill is the brainchild of Solidaridad Sin Fronteras, a Hialeah-based group that helps health care professionals trained in other countries get licensed to work in the U.S. health care system. During the May 24 party celebrating Campbell’s birthday, which was held at the Miami Shores Country Club, group president Julio Alfonso gave Campbell a Kate Spade purse, shoving a visible wad of cash in it after she opened it, according to the video.
Campbell told POLITICO on Friday that the whole episode was a joke, and that the video was the product of those who simply don’t like the fact that she is a Haitian-American. She said she kept none of the money stuffed in the purse.
She said the “struggles of foreign trained physicians are real,” and that she is happy to continue supporting the bill.
“I am the first Haitian American to the Florida Senate and I am trying to set an example for other Haitian Americans,” Campbell said. “It is a sad day for our state and country when people do not understand our struggles and try all the time to bring us down.”
Campbell has been the most frequent recipient of campaign contributions from Alfonso, taking in $3,100 of the roughly $5,500 he has given to state politicians, according to campaign finance records.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Alfonso, like Campbell, characterized the incident as a “joke.” He could not be reached for comment for this story. Along with being registered to lobby on the bill, one of the group’s registered lobbyists, Eli Nortelus, was on emails with Campbell and staff members as the bill was being developed.
The appearance of an organization handing a pricey purse full of cash to a state senator who has long advocated for their issue, though, was not viewed as a joking matter among some of Campbell’s Senate colleagues.
“I’m shocked,” said state Sen. Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican, who sponsored the bill as a freshman senator at Campbell’s request. “That’s not something we should be doing as senators.”
Hutson said Campbell approached him the year he sponsored it. But he said he had no idea of specific organizations or motivations behind the proposal and that he did not meet with any groups in connection with the issue.
Other organizations involved in the medical industry say the issue has long been a priority for Campbell, who served in the House from 2010 to 2016 before being elected to the Senate.
“It’s not new [for Campbell] ,” said an industry official directly lobbied by Campbell on the bill.
Her office was busy working on this year’s version of the bill, beginning last November, six months after the event showing her receiving the purse full of cash, according to emails and other state records reviewed by POLITICO.
“Per your request, here was the suggestions that were provided by the Department of Health,” read a Nov. 10, 2017, email from LaToya Sheals, Campbell’s legislative aide, to Campbell and Nortelus, the Solidaridad Sin Fronteras lobbyist.
It contained an attachment from the Florida Department of Health that made drafting suggestions, including using “language from 2017,” a reference to the previous year’s bill, which DOH officials said would make some portions of the 2018 version filed by Campbell unneeded.
The Senate’s bill drafting office, which polishes up legislative language before it is formally filed, also hinted that the 2017 language might be best.
“I believe that there is room for improvement in the current filed bill language,” Kelly Kibbey, a Senate attorney, wrote in a Nov. 20 email. “DOH does not provide any language for this bill filed. They seem to be speculating whether certain provisions of the 2018 filed bill are statutorily redundant.”
That email was forwarded by Sheals to Campbell, but there were no follow-up emails provided as part of a public records request. The legislation, FL SB636 (18R), was assigned to Senate committees, but never got a hearing. The House version got one House hearing, but it also failed to pick up steam.
The House sponsor, Republican Manny Diaz, said he “has no words” for the video of Campbell getting a purse stuffed with cash, but says he decided to get involved after the local groups reached out to him. He represents Hialeah, where Solidaridad Sin Fronteras is based.
Campbell’s latest controversy has not hurt her politically. Incoming Senate Democratic leader Audrey Gibson has already given her a vocal endorsement in her Democratic primary race against former assistant state attorney Jason Pizzo. In 2016, Pizzo lost his race against Campbell despite using more than $700,000 in personal loans. This year, Pizzo has already put $75,000 into his Senate bid.
Gibson’s endorsement was made following the Herald's story about the purse and cash, and the accompanying video.
“We can only take the word of the individuals who were there as to what became of the cash,” Gibson said. “The incumbent Senator Campbell I see in Tallahassee works to get her bills up and budget priorities for the district in play.”
Even before this latest incident, Campbell had spent much of her lengthy career in the public spotlight mired in controversies. At one point, Democratic leaders saidshe should “consider stepping down,” but the scandal has not slowed her political ascent. Now, as a member of the state Senate, Campbell is in a contested Democratic primary.
Here is a summary of previous controversies involving Campbell and her family, who own health care businesses in South Florida:
— A company owned by Campbell and her husband, Hubert, had been the subject of an investigation by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
— Her son, Gregory, was convicted in 2013 on charges tied to a $300,000 Medicare-fraud scheme. When he was given a new trial in 2017, Campbell got the news on the House floor during a marathon session. She originally thought her son had been exonerated, and the resulting outburst was so loud that other members thought she was having a medical emergency.
— Campbell and her husband were hit with $145,000 in liens by federal agents in 2012. The IRS was looking at their financial dealings after former business associates told the Miami Herald and IRS that the couple scammed them.
— In 2006, two developmentally disabled residents died in a group home her and her son ran in Miami-Dade County. One had been raped by a resident who Campbell had promised a judge would be monitored, but was not.
— She sponsored legislation to ban red-light cameras after her family minivan had been nailed with five tickets.

Source Politico 

Understanding ignorance — and why you don’t have the right to believe whatever you want

Local residents react as U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at a rally in Huntington, West Virginia, U.S., August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

I do not mean to revert to the stern evidentialism of the 19th-century mathematical philosopher William K Clifford, who claimed: ‘It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.’ Clifford was trying to prevent irresponsible ‘overbelief’, in which wishful thinking, blind faith or sentiment (rather than evidence) stimulate or justify belief. This is too restrictive. In any complex society, one has to rely on the testimony of reliable sources, expert judgment and the best available evidence. Moreover, as the psychologist William James responded in 1896, some of our most important beliefs about the world and the human prospect must be formed without the possibility of sufficient evidence. In such circumstances (which are sometimes defined narrowly, sometimes more broadly in James’s writings), one’s ‘will to believe’ entitles us to choose to believe the alternative that projects a better life.
In exploring the varieties of religious experience, James would remind us that the ‘right to believe’ can establish a climate of religious tolerance. Those religions that define themselves by required beliefs (creeds) have engaged in repression, torture and countless wars against non-believers that can cease only with recognition of a mutual ‘right to believe’. Yet, even in this context, extremely intolerant beliefs cannot be tolerated. Rights have limits and carry responsibilities.
Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right; that is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges; to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be ‘true believers’, but they are not believers in the truth.
Believing, like willing, seems fundamental to autonomy, the ultimate ground of one’s freedom. But, as Clifford also remarked: ‘No one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone.’ Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.Aeon counter – do not remove
Daniel DeNicola
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Here’s what you need to know about Donald Trump’s new conspiracy theory

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Here’s what you need to know about Donald Trump’s new conspiracy theory

This is one of those stories that take a minute to explain. Let’s walk through it.
First, the background: President Trump has been publicly suggesting for over a year that Democrats, Barack Obama, the Clintons, and/or forces within the FBI and the Justice Department aligned with Obama spied on his presidential campaign.
Is any of that true? The claims were refuted by former FBI director James Comey, and then later by the Justice Department.
Okay, so what’s changed? Trump has renewed his claims after recent reporting on the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference.
What did that reporting say? The New York Times says the FBI sent an informant to talk to two Trump staffers. The Washington Post says that informant got a meeting with the Trump campaign’s co-chair. Several outlets have identified the informant as professor and longtime FBI source Stefan Halper.
And what did this informant find out? It is not clear what information the informant obtained during these meetings, what information was given to the FBI, or how any of that information was used.
So no one knows anything. Well, here’s an important bit: According to these reports, the informant was not a spy embedded within the campaign. Rather, he was a source who reportedly met a small handful of aides for brief meetings.
So…no one knows anything. Yeah, alright, there is very little that’s publicly known right now about what actually happened here.
And Trump says he knows? Trump is creatively combining these news reports with Fox News commentary and other unidentified “reports” to again try to manifest a scandal “bigger than Watergate.”
Is it working? Trump, ever the branding expert, told reporters outside the White House: “We now call it Spygate. You're calling it Spygate.” This is a bit like trying to make “fetch” happen. (BuzzFeed News is, in fact, not calling it “Spygate.”)
What should I take away from this? There is no public information right now indicating that there was a spy implanted in Trump's campaign or that any official investigation into the campaign was driven by “political purposes.”
Where we do go from here? Hopefully, Mars. But in reality, the reports about an informant, and the rampant speculation about this on Fox News, have given Trump even more ammunition to try to publicly discredit the investigation into Russian interference. This won’t disappear soon.


Enough, is Enough Ten more lives snuffed out in a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas

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Ten more lives snuffed out in a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. And this time, the school had an “active shooter plan” and two armed security officers patrolling the hallways.
How can our legislators keep paying lip service to improve school safety while kids and teachers are being slaughtered?

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The Texas shooter’s father -- whose weapons were used in the massacre -- is an NRA supporter and vocal gun owner. He says his son was “bullied” at school.
The Texas Lieutenant Governor blamed it on violent movies, video games and abortion.
It’s the classic right-wing scam written in the blood of high schoolers: Blame gun violence on everything but guns.

Bipartisan, Bicameral Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Introduced

Co-Introduced by U.S. Reps. Roskam, Deutch, Collins, Nadler and Sens. Scott, Casey

 U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Doug Collins (R-GA), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation to combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism in schools and on college campuses across the nation. The "Anti-Semitism Awareness Act" directs the Department of Education (DOE) to use a widely-accepted definition of anti-Semitism when determining if incidents of harassment or discrimination that are potentially in violation of U.S. anti-discrimination law were motivated by anti-Semitism.

According to recent reports, anti-Semitic attacks on college campuses have risen sharply in recent years. Unfortunately, the Department lacks firm guidance on how to define anti-Semitism. By codifying the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, this legislation will enable the DOE to protect students from the most insidious and modern forms of anti-Semitism.

This legislation would not diminish or infringe upon any individual’s First Amendment rights or school's academic freedom. Rather, it provides the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights with a guideline for determining whether cases that already rise to the level of actionable discrimination were motivated by anti-Jewish animus.

Text of the legislation can be accessed here. A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here.

“There is no place for anti-Semitism or religious discrimination on our college campuses," said Rep. Roskam. "Across the nation, we’re witnessing a significant rise in Jewish students being targeted and harassed for no reason other than their identity. In Illinois, anti-Semitic incidents have nearly doubled in recent years. With numerous incidences of anti-Semitic vandalism, propaganda and cases of harassment surfacing across Illinois’ universities, we must stand together against hate. This legislation would ensure that the Department of Education is properly able to identify all forms of anti-Semitic incidences when investigating illegal discrimination on campus. Like all other students, Jewish students have the right to feel safe on campus. With this legislation, Congress can play an important role in this effort."

“I’ve heard far too many stories from Jewish students of the anti-Semitism they face in schools and on college campuses every day," Rep. Deutch said. "Jewish students, like students of any religion, should not live in fear of attacks because of their religion. They shouldn’t have to fear wearing Judaic symbols or expressing their support for Israel. As we work to combat all forms of discrimination and hate, Congress must act to protect Jewish students on campus, and this legislation would help the Education Department stem this troubling trend.”

“As many college campuses continue to be sites of anti-Semitic harassment, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act offers the Department of Education an effective tool for investigating whether prohibited bigoted actions have become a barrier to learning. This bill upholds First Amendment freedoms and supports students’ access to higher learning free from anti-Semitic abuse, and I thank Congressman Roskam for introducing this important legislation,” said Rep. Collins.

“With the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination on college campuses, the Department of Education must have all the tools it needs to identify harassment and discrimination of any kind,” said Rep. Nadler, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. “All students deserve to feel safe and secure on their college campus no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. The informational guidelines provided for in this legislation will help the Department by providing a deeper understanding of the full scope of potential discrimination and harassment against Jewish students.”

“With recent reports showing a significant increase in anti-Semitism on college campuses across America, it is essential that the Department of Education has a clear and concise definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism,” Senator Scott said. “I want to thank our bipartisan group of colleagues for working across the aisle on this important bill to give the Department of Education an important tool in the fight against hatred, harassment and discrimination.”

“The rise of religiously-motivated hate crimes and religious discrimination across our country is unacceptable," Senator Casey said. “This legislation will help the Department of Education investigate incidents of discrimination motivated by anti-Semitism in our schools, which should be safe environments for students from all backgrounds. I’m proud to work on this bipartisan legislation, which aims to combat anti-Semitism while preserving freedom of speech.”

Supreme Court sides with employers over employees in decision Ginsburg called "egregiously wrong"

Employers in the United States received a win from the Supreme Court on Monday, as the court ruled in favor of arbitration clauses that force employees to settle disputes through individual arbitration, rather than through joint legal proceedings such as class action and collective lawsuits. The court ruled 5-4 in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, which sought to determine whether arbitration clauses in employment contracts can be legally enforced. Though the Federal Arbitration Act stipulates that arbitration contracts are “valid, irrevocable and enforceable,” the plaintiffs argued the law conflicted with the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees workers “the right ... to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”
In his opinion for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch argued that the two laws are not in conflict with each other, making arbitration clauses legally valid. He wrote it would be up to policymakers, not the courts, to change the law.
Monday’s ruling was hotly contested by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote in her dissenting opinion that the majority decision was “egregiously wrong.”
The court’s ruling will have wide-ranging effects for employees. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 24.7 million American workers — 23.1% of all private-sector nonunion employees — have employment contracts that contain the class-action waivers at the heart of Monday’s decision.
CityLab noted the policies particularly affect working-class employees, and policies banning class-action suits are in place at such high-profile companies as Wells Fargo, Time Warner Cable, T.G.I. Friday’s, Olive Garden, Target, Macy’s and Amazon.

The fourth fatal mass school shooting of 2018 claimed 10 lives today in Santa Fe, Texas

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"I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here"
Reproduced from a Pew Research Center report. Chart: Axios Visuals. This was originally included in a story published on April 18.
The fourth fatal mass school shooting of 2018 claimed 10 lives today in Santa Fe, Texas.
Why it matters: This keeps happening.
  • Nine students and a teacher were killed at Santa Fe High School, located 30 miles southeast of Houston.
  • Another 10 were wounded, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press conference.
  • Explosive devices were found on and around campus, Santa Fe Independent School District police chief Walter Braun said today.
  • A 17-year old suspect is in custody. He had written about wanting to commit suicide, Abbott said, but instead gave himself up.
  • A shotgun and .38 caliber revolver were recovered from the shooter, Abbott said. Those guns were owned by the suspect's father, who obtained them legally.
The big picture: Today's teens are increasingly worried about mass shootings at their schools. And they're starting to expect the worst.
As Santa Fe student Paige Curry told local TV station ABC-13:
Reporter: "Was there a part of you that was like, 'This isn’t real. This could not happen at my school?'"
Curry: "There wasn’t."
Reporter: "Why so?"
Curry: "It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too."


Deutch, FL Dems ask Gov. Scott to Reduce Healthcare Costs & Expand Coverage for Floridians

Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) led Florida Democratic Members of Congress in a letter to Governor Rick Scott urging him to take concrete steps to expand healthcare coverage and reduce costs for Floridians.

In the coming weeks, health insurance companies are expected to announce their premium rates for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans in Florida. This letter is a response to repeated attempts by President Trump and Congressional Republicans to sabotage the ACA and our country's healthcare system, including by cutting the open enrollment period in half and repealing the individual mandate.

These changes already have had devastating consequences. As the members state in the letter, “According to the latest data from Gallup, 3.2 million fewer people across the country had health insurance coverage during the first year of the Trump Administration, relative to 2016.

Health policy experts predict that the resulting uncertainty and instability will lead to higher premiums, but the state has tools available to protect Floridians. The members warn, “[o]ur neighbors could see premiums increase by 16.9 percent and over 600,000 Floridians could be uninsured or underinsured all due to the sabotage.

In Florida, 1.7 million people are enrolled in coverage through the ACA exchange, and nine out of ten received financial help to reduce their monthly premiums. To expand access and reduce costs for Floridians, the Members of Congress highlight six actions Governor Scott can take:
  • Protect state residents by limiting the sale of sub-par junk insurance plans.
  • Boost coverage (and lower costs) by increasing outreach, enrollment and marketing.
  • Strengthen state oversight of the individual market to improve plan participation and lower costs.
  • Protect consumers by ensuring their health plan provides essential health benefits, like hospital care or prescription drugs.
  • Use existing Affordable Care Act authority to craft a reinsurance program to reduce health insurance premiums.
  • Broaden the insurance risk pool by passing a state-level-policy designed to boost enrollment.
The members close their letter with the following message for Governor Rick Scott:

Republicans in Washington have proven to be incapable of crafting a replacement for the ACA that would increase coverage and lower costs for Florida families and they remain unwilling to seriously engage in bipartisan improvements to the ACA. For the sake of our constituents, we urge you to take action to mitigate the impact of their harmful actions and inability to solve the problems that exist in our insurance markets today. We stand ready to work with you and thank you for your consideration.

The letter was co-signed by Senator Bill Nelson and Reps. Castor, Wilson, Soto, Hastings, Lawson, Wasserman Schultz, Crist, Demings, Frankel, and Murphy.

The signed letter can be accessed here, and the text of the letter can be viewed below.

Dear Governor Scott,

We are very concerned that the Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration continue to sabotage affordable health care for Florida families and that such sabotage likely will result in increases in health insurances premiums in coming months. We urge you to work with us to protect Florida families from the escalating health insurance costs and reduce out of pocket health care costs.

Over 1.7 million Floridians are enrolled in Marketplace health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – more than any other state so the sabotage has a larger and more serious impact on Florida than anywhere else in the United States. Since the passage of the ACA, Republicans have worked on a national and state level to eliminate the law despite the fact that millions have received comprehensive health coverage through the ACA and enjoy new consumer protections such as the end to discrimination based upon preexisting conditions and coverage of children to age 26.

While public outrage last year over the Republican plan to weaken the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid helped defeat the outright dismantling of health care in America as we know it, the Trump Administration and other Republican efforts have been implemented to depress enrollment and raise premiums and out of pocket costs for working families. The Trump Administration cut funding for Marketplace advertising by 90 percent, slashed in-person assistance through the navigator program and increased premiums for working families by unilaterally refusing to pay 2017 cost-sharing reductions. These actions have had devastating consequences for working families. According to the latest data from Gallup, 3.2 million fewer people across the country had health insurance coverage during the first year of the Trump Administration, relative to 2016.

Furthermore, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Urban Institute, the elimination of the individual mandate and the Administration’s push for “junk” health insurance plans will further destabilize the individual market and raise costs for Florida families. The analysis estimates that our neighbors could see premiums increase by 16.9 percent and over 600,000 Floridians could be uninsured or underinsured all due to the sabotage. [1] This is counterproductive and wrong for Florida families.

In the face of such intentional efforts to inflict higher costs on Floridians by President Trump and the Republican-led Congress, we are calling on you to work with us to protect Floridians’ access to health care. We understand that you do not have a great track record on standing up for health care access and affordability for Florida families, but certainly you must be sensitive to the fact that so many will be faced with crushing health care costs and that action now is required.

There are a number of actions at the state level that you can take to help increase health coverage and improve the affordability of care for families that will mitigate the harm and higher costs facilitated by Republicans in Washington. We urge you to work to implement some or all of these options to help ensure stability and lower costs for our neighbors. Six potential options are listed below:

Protect state residents by limiting the sale of sub-par junk insurance plans.

The Trump Administration has further weakened consumer protections by allowing plans to be sold that do not meet basic benefit or financial protection standards. These junk plans would return patients to the days where only upon illness did they discover their plans imposed unreasonable limits on coverage and excluded vital benefits. In the past, consumers faced more than $100 million in unpaid claims when fly-by-night companies purporting to sell insurance became insolvent. In addition, expanding access to junk insurance plans negatively affects the risk pool in the ACA-compliant market, thereby increasing premiums for our neighbors. While the Trump Administration has detrimentally weakened federal regulations, strong state protections can prevent such plans from appearing in the state market to scam unknowing customers. For example, Florida could blunt the destabilizing effect of a proposed regulation on short-term limited duration plans by requiring that these plans comply with key consumer protections, or by limiting the duration of these plans and preventing renewals.[2] To help ensure Floridians are not harmed, you and Commissioner Altmaier should act pre-emptively to keep bad actors out of the insurance market.

Boost coverage (and lower costs) by increasing outreach, enrollment and marketing.

The Trump Administration has dramatically cut its commitment to outreach and enrollment efforts in Florida by slashing the budget for marketing and outreach and refusing to use funds designated for these purposes. Just this month the Administration kept up its attack on enrollment by striking the requirement that Navigators must maintain a physical presence in the service area. The Navigator initiatives in Florida have been so successful in part because the folks running these programs live and work in the areas they are assisting. This seems like a no-brainer and the policy reversed by the Administration should be reinstated for the benefit of Floridians.

With the lack of federal commitment, Florida should step up efforts to connect consumers to coverage and increase awareness of the Marketplace. We are fortunate to have so many knowledgeable groups who could help with the ground efforts, including marketing targeted at hard to reach groups. Our Navigators in Florida are leading the country in outreach and enrollment, but they could have enrolled even more of the 12 percent of Floridians lacking health coverage if they had sufficient support from the Administration or the State of Florida. In part due to these factors, awareness of the marketplaces and the available financial assistance to help pay for insurance remain very low, and younger and healthier consumers are more likely to remain uninsured without significant advertising campaigns. Investments in outreach, enrollment and marketing help ensure a diverse risk pool, bring premiums down for consumers and provide coverage for younger and healthier consumers who, despite the fact that they are a lower risk statistically, are not immune to disease and accident. For instance, Covered California estimates that its extensive investment in marketing and outreach has translated into 6-8 percent lower premiums.[3] Florida could request that federal funds currently not being used for their intended outreach purposes be sent to non-profit organizations, like Navigators, in our state with a successful track records. Thus expanding coverage and reducing premiums.

Strengthen state oversight of the individual market to improve plan participation and lower costs.

Like the current Administration, Florida has often not measured up to its responsibility to help lower costs for Floridians. The Legislature – with your concurrence – eliminated the power of the Insurance Commissioner to protect consumers and review and negotiate health insurance rates for two years. One way to strengthen state oversight is to encourage Florida’s Insurance Commissioner to work with plans to ensure that every rating area has a plan available and increase competition to reduce costs and increase choice. Demonstrating this commitment, making it clear that the Insurance Commissioner has the necessary authority and increasing communication with issuers at the state level has the potential to reverse the Administration’s ongoing efforts to sabotage the individual market.

Protect consumers by ensuring their health plan provides essential health benefits, like hospital care or prescription drugs.

While Congressional Republican legislative attempts to undermine critical health benefits like maternity care and prescription drugs have not succeeded to date, the Administration is considering steps that would allow plans to charge more for certain life-saving benefits or allow plans to exclude certain needed items from coverage altogether. States and localities have the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of these essential health benefits and ensure equal access to needed care by passing their own requirements to protect residents and bolster the intent of current law and regulations.

Use existing Affordable Care Act authority to craft a reinsurance program to reduce health insurance premiums.

A number of states have sought State Innovation waivers under Section 1332 of the ACA to create reinsurance funds to stabilize the individual market. These funds protect consumers from dramatic premium increases by paying claims above a certain limit or paying for claims for certain specific high-cost conditions. Removing these claims or conditions through reinsurance allows plans to reduce premiums for other consumers.

Broaden the insurance risk pool by passing a state-level policy designed to boost enrollment.

Passing a state level policy designed to boost enrollment which would both increase coverage and reduce premiums for consumers. After Massachusetts passed its own provisions that got all into the risk pool – especially young and healthy individuals – premiums decreased by double digits and coverage increased from 70 to 92 percent. The Congressional Budget Office projects that recent provisions in the Republican tax law that reduce broad participation in the insurance pools will result in 13 million people losing coverage and 10 percent higher premiums each year for those of us who have insurance. Measures at the state level to encourage participation in insurance pools would help insulate our constituents and yours - all Floridians (and their insurance premiums) - from these adverse effects that result from these national negative actions.

Republicans in Washington have proven to be incapable of crafting a replacement for the ACA that would increase coverage and lower costs for Florida families and they remain unwilling to seriously engage in bipartisan improvements to the ACA. For the sake of our constituents, we urge you to take action to mitigate the impact of their harmful actions and inability to solve the problems that exist in our insurance markets today. We stand ready to work with you and thank you for your consideration.


Deutch Calls for Hearing on Reports of Missing Michael Cohen Files in Treasury Database

 Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) wrote to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte requesting a hearing on reports by The New Yorker that certain suspicious activity reports (SARs) regarding financial transactions by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen are missing from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) database.

Video of Congressman Deutch’s remarks to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte can be viewed here.

Congressman Deutch's letter can be accessed here, and the text of the letter is available below.

Dear Chairman Goodlatte:

You have likely seen reports published last night by The New Yorker indicating that a law enforcement official believes that suspicious activity reports (SARs) related to transactions by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, are missing from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) database. See attached.

The article indicates that searches of the database failed to return two previous suspicious activity reports referenced in a third suspicious activity report filed by First Republic Bank related to Michael Cohen’s account for Essential Consultants, LLC. The account was used for certain financial transactions including payment of $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford in October of 2016 in exchange for her agreement to withhold the story of her alleged affair with then-candidate Donald Trump.

The details of the first and second suspicious activity reports are unknown, but their absence from the FinCEN database is concerning and a matter that is rightly within the jurisdiction of this committee. Removing or restricting access to suspicious activity reports in the FinCEN database appears to be unusual:

Seven former government officials and other experts familiar with the Treasury Department’s FinCEN database expressed varying levels of concern about the missing reports. Some speculated that FinCEN may have restricted access to the reports due to the sensitivity of their content, which they said would be nearly unprecedented. One called the possibility “explosive.” A record-retention policy on fincen’s Web site notes that false documents or those “deemed highly sensitive” and “requiring strict limitations on access” may be transferred out of its master file. Nevertheless, a former prosecutor who spent years working with the FinCEN database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to SARs.[1]

Accordingly, this committee should offer Secretary Mnuchin and other Treasury Department and Justice Department officials the opportunity to testify under oath regarding the policies and procedures related to the retention of, and access to, suspicious activity reports. This information is essential to our oversight role and will help to ensure that law enforcement agencies are able to conduct their work without interference.

In the article, the official who released the report is quoted, “We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal.” It is also not normal for this committee to ignore its oversight obligations and fail to defend of the rule of law. Therefore, I respectfully urge you to schedule hearings to examine these issues as soon as possible.


As Republicans Vote to Cut SNAP, Rep. Deutch Introduces Bill to Strengthen Food Aid Program

As the U.S. House of Representatives considers extreme cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of the Republicans’ Farm Bill, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) introduced the “Food Security Improvement Act” to boost benefits that help hungry Americans feed their families.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) to calculate SNAP benefits. The TFP makes many assumptions about food availability, food cost, and food preparation to estimate the minimal cost to provide a nutritious diet. But many of these assumptions don’t reflect the real challenges associated with poverty in the lives of Americans trying to feed their families. This legislation would replace the TFP with USDA’s Low Cost Food Plan for calculating benefits.

Introduction of this legislation coincides with consideration by the House of Representatives of the Republican “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2), which would cut 2 million beneficiaries—including 23,000 military families—from SNAP, impose ineffective and damaging work requirements, and cut a total of $23 billion from the program.

Following introduction, Congressman Deutch issued this statement:

House Republicans’ plan is cruel. SNAP was created as a response to the moral imperative to feed the hungry. But American families using SNAP benefits should not fear having to skip meals or run out of benefits before the end of the month. Contrary to the myths used to attack SNAP, benefits are modest, an average of just $1.40 per meal. Rather than making it more difficult for vulnerable Americans to feed their families, Congress should make improvements to the SNAP program so it better reflects the real challenges of poverty. This legislation will ensure that we continue to respond to the needs of those who need a little help putting food on their table.

Deutch Slams Trump Admin. Move to Make Gun Exports Easier

Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) issued this statement after the Trump Administration proposed moving approval of some gun exports from the U.S. State Department to the U.S. Commerce Department, which would loosen restrictions and Congressional oversight of these weapons sales:

Remember when Oliver North – now the head of the NRA – was caught illegally selling weapons to Iran? After only a few weeks of being the gun companies' point man in America, the Trump Administration is moving to make it easier for American gun manufacturers to sell weapons without Congressional oversight - weapons that could wind up in the hands of human rights abusers and dictators," said Congressman Deutch. "
The President's action today will make it easier for gun companies to export gun violence around the world. Congress must act to block this proposed rule."

Pelosi Brings in $16.1 Million for House Democrats

Image result for pelosi in south florida during recess

-- BOSTON GLOBE: "She might be unpopular, but Pelosi doesn't plan on going anywhere,"by Liz Goodwin: "'We will win. I will run for speaker. I feel confident about it. And my members do, too,' Pelosi told a meeting of Globe reporters and editors. ...
"'It's important that it not be five white guys at the table, no offense,' Pelosi said, referring to the top two leadership spots in the House and Senate and the presidency. 'I have no intention of walking away from that table.'"
-- ALSO ... PELOSI appeared at an event with NEW YORK GOV. ANDREW CUOMO Tuesday in New York. She introduced her fellow House colleagues thusly:
"Jerry Nadler is here. Jerry will be the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee which is the committee of jurisdiction for gun safety legislation. ... Carolyn Maloney is here, she will be Chairwoman of Joint Economic Committee for fairness in our economy. ... Nydia Velázquez is here, she will be the Chairman on the House Small Business Committee."
TO INTRODUCE LAWMAKERS AS THE NEXT CHAIRMEN OF SPECIFIC COMMITTEES -- as if the majority is all but won -- represents an extraordinarily level of confidence by Pelosi at the moment. Yes, it sure looks like Dems will take the majority in the House, but it's far from a sure thing. And most Democratic insiders -- including senior members of the House Democratic Caucus -- say Pelosi might need a sizeable majority in order for her to become speaker again.
WHY? Lots of Democrats have laid down their marker, saying they will not vote for her no matter what. This Globe interview is certain to begin another round of will-you-vote-for-Pelosi questions on the campaign trail. One needs 218 votes on the floor of the House to be speaker. Read Dave Weigel in Charlotte: "Pelosi says she'll run for speaker, as more swing-district Democrats look for alternative"
PELOSI IS, UNDOUBTEDLY, one of the most skilled legislative tacticians in modern political history. She is also the strongest fundraiser in the caucus and is raising an enormous amount of money for her colleagues, which has and will buy her a lot of good will. Without Pelosi at the top of the caucus, there will most likely be "five white guys at the table," as she points out. This will resonate with many House Democrats.
PELOSI'S comments come after a flurry of press coverage around potential leadership changes in the House. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat, said they should all retire if Dems don't take back the House. There has been buzz about Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Joe Crowley of New York.
-- BOSTON GLOBE'S SCOT LEHIGH: "As for Clyburn, whom 'she loves like a brother,' his remark apparently rankled, for she returned to it several times. Comments like his are 'a waste of time,' she said at one point. 'Maybe he's talking about his own plans,' she added at another."
-- ONE NERDY CORRECTION: Carolyn Maloney won't be the chair of the JEC. That chairmanship switches back to the Senate next year no matter who is in charge. She might be vice chair, if Democrats take control.
NEW THIS MORNING ... THE NRCC is going to cut Pelosi's "We will win. I will run for speaker" remark into a video-based advertisement in the coming days. They think that the prospect of Pelosi returning to the speakership is enough to bring out Republican voters. Some Pelosi-aligned Democrats, of course, don't think that's right.
DEPT. OF REALLY GOOD TIMING ... YOU'RE INVITED ... Poliico will sit down with NANCY PELOSI on next Tuesday in D.C. Six months ahead of Election Day. We'll be sure to get into this and much more. RSVP

Source Politico Playbook