Have you ever wondered why the GOP Senate continually sides with the NRA on all gun-related proposed legislation, and against well over a majority of their constituents, Democrat, Republican and Independents? They’ve been bought, including Nevada’s own Sen. Dean Heller (to the tune of a $122,000 scholarship from the NRA)!
— by Vickie Rock, Humboldt Democrats
After the 62nd vote to repeal “Obamacare” (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) which has now been upheld by the Supreme Court TWICE, the Republiban members of Congress finally managed to pass HR 3762. Inaptly named, the bill that would have done the exact opposite of its title: “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015.” Restoring “Americans'” freedom? Nope! More like restoring the freedom for Insurance Corporations to give Americans the short shrift related to any hope of accessing healthcare insurance and thus health care itself.
And just so you know, each and every Nevada Republican in the House of Representatives, Rep. Mark Amodei (CD2), Rep. Joe Heck (CD3), and Rep. Cresant Hardy (CD4) voted FOR passage of HR 3762 (as well as a large number of previous bills) which would not just repeal the Affordable Care Act for millions of Americans who can barely afford health insurance as it is, but would have also revoked any and all funding received by Planned Parenthood by folks who not only can’t afford health insurance, but can’t afford health care either. Senator Dean Heller also voted FOR passage (repeal) in the Senate in December preceding the vote in the House.
Today, at the stroke of his pen, President Obama showed us exactly HOW important it is that we have a Democratic President in the oval office as he promptly and unceremoniously vetoed their wasted efforts. Here’s his message back to Congress:
TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act. This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America. The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered. And it is working. About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect. The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high. Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives. Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course.
The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths. This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve. Reliable health care coverage would no longer be a right for everyone: it would return to being a privilege for a few.
The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured. For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages. And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.
The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually. Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered. By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.
Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times. Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs. Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.
The Republiban may have used procedural shenanigans to enable them to pass HR 3762, but to override President Obama’s veto, the Republiban would need a two-thirds affirmative vote on repeal bill. The don’t have that. This was all for show for the rabid GOP base heading into the November election. But more than that, it’s a serious red-flag warning to Democrats that if we don’t overwhelm the polls this November to begin taking back Congress, and instead all the Republiban to hold onto Congress plus, take the White House, you can kiss the American Dream goodbye and buy the coffin as it will truly be dead.
August is when members of Congress are supposed to be meeting with their constituents to discuss issues before them. If you get a chance to attend such a meeting, please express your support for the Iran Deal and ask for your Senator’s and Congressman’s support.
As of the date of this post, there are 32 days remaining before Congress must take action on the Iran Deal before them. Even if you don’t get a chance to attend a meeting, you can always pick up your phone and call their offices:
The Latest Ploy in The Ongoing Attack on Women’s Health
Women’s access to basic health care continues to be under attack at both the state and federal level. The most recent threat came this week when Republican lawmakers in the Senate snuck anti-choice provisions into a bipartisan bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 178), which would establish a fund for victims of human trafficking, wasn’t supposed to be controversial. In fact, it enjoyed wide bipartisan support until Senate Democrats discovered that Republicans added language that would restrict federal funding for abortion–even forcing underage victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term. Democrats have now vowed to hold the entire bill until the anti-choice language is removed.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is just the latest attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights on the national level. Unfortunately, actions on the state level are even worse. Last week, West Virginia Republicans overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a 20-week abortion ban. With the veto override, West Virginia became the 11th state to prohibit abortions past 20-weeks, despite the fact that over the last few years courts have blocked several 20-week abortion bans for violating protections offered under Roe v. Wade. Montana and New Mexico are among other states considering 20-week bans under the guise of “fetal pain,” which scientists agree does not exist. And earlier this month, Wisconsin Governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker also said he would sign a 20-week ban.
While Democrats have been able to prevent anti-choice language from creeping into federal law thus far, these state-based corrosive efforts are working. A ThinkProgress investigation found that the maze of state abortion restrictions, usually framed as legal regulations, is driving the price of abortion services up so high that lower-income women are effectively priced out of the market. The attack on women’s healthcare has gone so far that a Texas Republican legislator has protested her colleagues’ proposal to cut funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics, saying that without that “provider network, women cannot be served. And they will die.”
BOTTOM LINE: From trying to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, to undermining international agreements with Iran, to voting 56 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Party has proven it is unfit to govern. These recent threats to women’s health are just another example of how out-of-touch and dangerous GOP policies can be.
As an aside: Senator Heller has submitted an amendment (S.Amdt 283) to this bill, however, the text of his amendment has not yet been posted to Congress.gov.
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Senate Republicans Must Stop Delaying Attorney General Confirmation
— by CAP Action War Room
It has been 124 days since Loretta Lynch was nominated to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. In that time, the 50th anniversary of Selma reminded us that we have a long way to go to achieve equal voting rights; Ferguson re-entered the news with a report detailing egregious racism in the police department and its repercussions; a new coalition of groups working on criminal justice demonstrated a bipartisan commitment to reform; and a moving tribute at the Grammy awards proved that these issues go far beyond politics.
In all of these issues, the Department of Justice plays a vital role. And its head, as the top law enforcement officer in the United States, leads the way. Ms. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a highly qualified nominee for the position. While some Republicans used her confirmation hearing as a chance to voice their out-of-touch views on President Obama’s recent immigration action or the departing Attorney General, she excelled in answering questions and impressing a bipartisan group of Senators.
So what is the hold up? Here are 5 reasons to quit delaying and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.
- She has been more than fully vetted. On top of her confirmation hearings, Lynch submitted detailed responses to 900 written questions and met individually with at least 59 senators.
- She is a proven, well-qualified leader. Lynch has a proven record of prosecuting hate crimes and corruption, and a reputation of being committed to protecting human rights and ensuring equal opportunity.
- She has a wide array of support. Senators from both sides of the aisle support Lynch, along with 25 former U.S. Attorneys from Republican and Democratic administrations. Rudy Giuliani said, “if I were in the Senate, I would confirm her.” Rudy Giuliani!
- She has waited longer than any other Attorney General nominee. Loretta Lynch’s nomination has been pending for 124 days, more than a month longer than any other in history.
- She would make history. Loretta Lynch would make history by being the first African-American woman to become Attorney General. What better way for the Senate to celebrate Women’s History Month and the legacy of Selma than to confirm Lynch.
Bonus: The movie Goodfellas was based on one of Loretta Lynch’s cases. She’s got what it takes.
BOTTOM LINE: When issues of racial inequality, voting rights, criminal justice, and more are front and center in our nation’s dialogue, it is no time to be playing games with our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Loretta Lynch has proven herself, and the Senate has had ample time to deliberate. Now its time to bring the nomination to the floor, and vote to confirm.
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Like CAP Action on Facebookand follow us on Twitter.
I awoke this morning to hear that 47 U.S. Senators had signed a letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran basically telling them (1) not to trust our nation’s President to negotiate an agreement as to Iran’s nuclear program, (2) that no matter what might be negotiated, and (3) come 2017 when a new President (presumably Republican) takes office, well, he’ll just scrap that agreement. Nevada’s Senator Dean Heller was on of those 47 signatures. News flash Senator Heller, the President of the United States is NOT the lone Emperor of the World!
Here’s Senator Heller’s tweet:
Here’s the letter from 47 imbecilic Senators who don’t understand the U.S. Constitution and the roles different parts of our government play, who have no rudimentary understanding of our obligations under international law and who appear to have colluded to commit seditious conspiracy to undermine the government the swore to faithfully serve:
Ah … but the story doesn’t end with the mere issuance of that letter. Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that to the letter signed by the 47 Senators, “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”
Zarif was astonished that 47 members of our US Senate, some of whom have held those positions for decades, believe it to be appropriate to write to leaders of another country expressing opposition their own president and administration. Zarif also challenged the lawmakers’ threats, dismissing the letter as a mere “propaganda ploy with no legal value.” He went further explaining, “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with ‘the stroke of a pen,’ as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.”
Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.”
Iranian Foreign Minister added that “change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with ‘the stroke of a pen,’ as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.” He emphasized that if the current negotiation with the 5+1 results in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.
Zarif expressed hope that his comments “may enrich the knowledge of the authors to recognize that according to international law, Congress may not ‘modify the terms of the agreement at any time’ as they claim, and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations.”
The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate. He reminded them that “their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such ‘mere executive agreements’ that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.”
Zarif concluded by stating that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered these negotiations in good faith and with the political will to reach an agreement, and it is imperative for our counterparts to prove similar good faith and political will in order to make an agreement possible.”
President Obama also condemned the action of the 47 Senators saying, “I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members for Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition.”
As far as I’m concerned, I truly hope the Attorney General introduces each and every one of those 47 Senators with reality by charging them with blatant violation of the Logan Act, which ironically is a law passed by the US Congress and signed by President John Adams. The Logan Act is a U.S. federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with or interfering with negotiations with foreign governments. It was passed in 1799 and last amended in 1994. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with fines, as well as the possibility of imprisonment of up to three years. Clearly, the US Constitution does NOT delegate the responsibility for negotiation agreements or treaties to the US Congress. Foreign affairs is clearly the responsibility of the executive, the President of the United States of America.
This is the second incident the GOP has orchestrated to embarrass the President of the United States and undermine his authority. When is the President going to finally unleash the Attorney General of the United States to put an end to the seditious conspiracies being concocted against the better interests of these United States?
— Zach Hudson, NVDEMs spokesperson.
Senator Heller, who talks about “Anchor Babies,” cast his vote yesterday to kill Immigration Executive Action, eagerly hoping to be able to deport thousands of Nevada Immigrants. He, however, voted on the losing side of that argument with the bill being “rejected” when it failed to garner 60 votes for passage.
Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson released the following statement after Senator Dean Heller voted to defund President Obama’s immigration executive action which is intended to keep families together:
“For all the talk of Dean Heller moderating on immigration after nearly losing his Senate race, today we saw the Dean Heller who uses phrases like ‘anchor babies’ and is scared of Sharron Angle’s shadow is still very much alive. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a politician who wants to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Nevada and opposes birthright citizenship would vote to defund a program that is preventing countless Nevada families from being torn apart. Nevadans saw today that when it matters most, Dean Heller will put appeasing the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party over helping keep families together.”
Heller’s Record on immigration:
Collins Plan Would Repeal President Obama’s Executive Action On Immigration That Granted Deferred Action To Immediate Family Of US Citizens. According to an article by Alexander Bolton of The Hill, “The Collins proposal would repeal Obama’s executive action from November that would grant de facto legal status to the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, which would affect up to 5 million immigrants.” [The Hill, 2/4/15]
Heller Voted For The Collins Plan. [ S.534, Roll Call Vote 63, 2/27/15]
Heller spoke of “anchor babies” when discussing his previous opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. In October 2007, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Heller. “…spoke Saturday of his opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, saying no new laws are needed. ‘I don’t support amnesty. I don’t support benefits for illegals. I don’t support the Dream Act. I don’t support anchor babies. No sanctuary cities and no North American Union,’ he said.” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/14/2007]
In May 2011, Heller Said, “Just So You Know If I Was A Legislature In Arizona I Would Have Supported That Arizona Bill.” [Heller Tele-Town Hall, 5/05/11]
Heller Said He Would Support An Immigration Law Like Arizona’s In Nevada. In March 2011, Heller said he would support a policy similar to Arizona’s immigration law in Nevada. He said, “I am talking to members of the Arizona delegation about immigration policy down there. I think we need a similar policy here in NV and I would support a similar policy and I am surprised that this legislature isn’t talking more about immigration reform based on the size of the debt we have.” [Nevada Newsmakers, 3/21/11(video)]
On Deferred Action : The Hill reported that Heller “criticized President Obama for announcing a new policy on deporting young immigrants living in the country illegally rather than working with Congress to craft new immigration legislation.” [The Hill, 6/15/12]
On Birthright Citizenship : Heller reiterated his support for an overhaul of the 14th Amendment, saying the children of illegal immigrants should only receive birthright citizenship if at least one parent is a citizen. “I don’t believe we should be giving benefits to non-United States citizens over United States citizens,” he said. [AP, 1/06/12]
Heller Voted Against The DREAM Act. In 2010, Heller voted against the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal residency for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants first brought to the United States illegally by their parents. While Republicans criticized the bill as de facto amnesty for undocumented immigrants and payment to Latino voters, Democrats argued the bill was a way to avoid punishing children for the acts of their parents and to strengthen military readiness and national competitiveness. The House measure would apply to adults under 30 who were brought to the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday and who had been in the country for at least five years. The bill would grant conditional legal status to qualifying young adults to completed at least two years of college or military service. It also required background and medical checks and the submission of biometric information. “The DREAM Act is about our nation’s cherished values of equality and opportunity. The DREAM Act would have strengthened our military readiness and national competitiveness. And it is the right thing to do. That is why this legislation passed the House with bipartisan support,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after Senate Republicans blocked the bill’s passage. The bill passed, 216-198. [CQ Today, 12/08/10; Pelosi press release, 12/18/10; HR 5281, Vote #625, 12/08/10]
Heller has caught significant flack after it was found that his campaign web site was “putting out one message on immigration policy in English, and a more forgiving message in Spanish.” Additionally Heller’s Spanish language website “indicated concern over Nevada students whose first language is not English,” even though Heller “has consistently supported limiting or eliminating the ability to conduct government business in any language other than English.” [MSNBC, 5/29/12; Las Vegas Sun, 5/28/12]
Oh … and just so you know, Nevadans are stuck with Senator Heller and can’t do much about his failures to represent Nevadans until the 2018 elections when we can finally replace him with someone who represents all of us … not just his financial benefactors.
The recent Cliven Bundy debacle in Nevada put a national spotlight on the long-running, and long-failing, effort by right-wing Western legislators to seize federal public lands and either turn them over to the states or sell them to the highest bidder.
While the renewal of this so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” has thus far been carried out with limited resources by part-time legislators like State Rep. Ken Ivory (R-UT), new research shows that its leaders are now using taxpayer money from at least 42 counties in nine Western states to advance an aggressive and coordinated campaign to seize America’s public lands and national forests for drilling, mining, and logging.
According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website.
Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions.
Legal experts report that Utah’s law, and similar bills being advanced by ALC and ALEC are in clear violation of Article IV of the Constitution, are in conflict with the laws that established Western states, and would be overturned if ever tested in federal court.
As the American Lands Council has grown in influence and resources, its activities have received new scrutiny. ALC President Ken Ivory, for example, reportedly earned more than $40,000 from the organization in 2012 (his salary for 2013 has not yet been disclosed). According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Ivory’s wife, Becky, also receives payments from the ALC.
A recent fundraising email obtained by ThinkProgress also shows that at least one ALC member, Washington County, Utah Commissioner Alan Gardner, is using his government title and government email account to raise money for ALC’s lobbying efforts and training of political candidates.
The fundraising solicitation that was sent from Gardner’s official government email address on June 13 asks county governments to contribute $1,000 to become a “Bronze” member, $5,000 to become a “Silver” member, or $25,000 to become a “Gold” member of the ALC. Gardner confirmed to ThinkProgress that he was the author of the email.
The fundraising solicitation says that up to $100,000 will be spent by ALC on a “Campaign Project” aimed at equipping candidates for federal, state, and county office with “materials and resources to build broad based Knowledge and Courage to compel Congress to honor its promise to us and our children to transfer title to the public lands….” Gardner’s email also reports that the funds will be used for lobbyists, a legal team, polling, and engaging the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
ALC’s use of county funds adds to the growing cost to taxpayers of the right-wing land seizure movement. The state of Utah, for example, has already spent more than $500,000 to study a takeover of federal land and has set aside an additional $3 million for legal fees to fight the federal government in court. In Idaho, when the Attorney General’s office questioned the legality of seizing federal lands, legislators in the state spent more than$20,000 on private counsel. In Nevada, a federal land seizure study cost taxpayers more than $66,000, while a special task force to study the issue in Wyoming cost taxpayers$30,000.
In addition to using taxpayer funds to advance unconstitutional bills to seize federal lands, the ALC also relies on financial support from the mining industry and fossil fuel interest groups. Americans for Prosperity, for example — another group financed by the Koch brothers — is listed as a “Bronze Member” of ALC. Mesa Exploration, a mining company whose recent proposal to build a potash mine in an area that the Donner Party crossed in 1846 was recently nixed by federal land managers, is also listed as a “Bronze Member” on ALC’s website.
Matt Lee-Ashley is a senior fellow and director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. You can follow him on Twitter at @MLeeAshley.
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.
GOP Senators Vote Against Working Americans And Block Minimum Wage Increase
A minority of 41 Senators, all Republicans (and YES, that includes Sen. Dean Heller), voted today to block debate and a vote on a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Once again, the GOP followed the orders of the Koch brothers to keep our economy working for only the wealthiest.
What’s more, instead of voting to give 28 million people as much as a $4,000 raise each, these GOP Senators instead took checks from leading lobbyists from big corporations opposed to raising it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for instance, has taken $118,000 since 2008:
Let’s go over just a few of the groups that these 41 Senate Republicans — whose average net worth is $6.26 million — were voting against in deciding to not even allow debate on the minimum wage bill:
- 28 million workers overall, whose wages would go up by a combine $35 billion dollars;
- 15 million women, who make up almost two-thirds of all minimum wage workers;
- One million veterans, which amounts to one in ten of all veterans currently working;
- 21 million children, who would have had at least one parent whose pay will go up;
- 3.5 million people of color, who make up a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers and whose wages are estimated to increase by $16.1 billion with a $10.10 minimum wage.
Whether or not this issue personally affects you, chances are you know someone for whom this would make a difference. The average worker who would benefit is 35 years old, and more than half are women. It’s a single mother trying to make sure her kids have enough to eat. It’s a college student working to pay her way through school. And they deserve a raise.
Despite today’s vote, this issue will not go away, no matter how hard Republicans wish it would. The 42nd ‘no’ vote came from Majority Leader Harry Reid, a procedural move in order to preserve the option of bringing the bill up again. And just before the vote took place, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a clear indication on the Senate floor that this fight is long from over: “If we don’t succeed this time … we will bring this bill to the floor again and again and again. Sooner or later we will get it done.” (Editor’s remark: Frankly … if the House can vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act 53 time, it’s perfectly acceptable with me for the Senate to have to vote, and re-vote on this at least once a week until they incur some serious wrath from the constituents and finally cast a YES vote.)
BOTTOM LINE: Instead of raising the minimum wage and giving Americans who work hard a better opportunity to get ahead, Senate Republicans have shown once again that they’re against the 99%. But this fight is far from over. Those who vote against everyday Americans — many of whom have voted for similar minimum wage increases in the past — are on the wrong side of history.
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.
Rural Veterans Improvement Act would improve access to care by expanding transportation options, recruiting and retaining doctors, and prioritizing improvements at rural clinics
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced a bill to address some of the biggest barriers to health care for veterans in rural communities.
More than 6 million veterans, including a third of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, live in rural communities. But as many as half of those veterans may be going without care from the VA. Rural veterans too often struggle to access quality care because it isn’t available locally. For some, traveling to and from an appointment can take all day. Veterans who can’t drive must rely on neighbors or volunteers to get to appointments, and many simply go without adequate care.
Udall and Heller’s “Rural Veterans Improvement Act” takes a four-pronged approach to improve and help veterans access care by:
- Enhancing mental health care options by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with non-VA mental health providers in rural communities.
- Building on the VA’s transportation program to ensure more veterans living in rural areas have a way to get to doctors’ appointments.
- Creating programs and incentives to attract and retain doctors and nurses to rural VA health care facilities.
- Requiring the VA to conduct a full assessment of its community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) to determine what improvements are needed and prioritize those projects.
“I’ve met with veterans across New Mexico, some of whom have to drive four hours or more to get to a VA hospital. Many rural veterans are also frustrated with the lack of health care options and the frequent turnover among staff at their local clinics. Rural veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from TBI and PTSD also often don’t have adequate access to mental health care in their communities,” Udall said. “I’m pleased to join Senator Heller in introducing this bipartisan bill to help address these challenges and enable veterans to get better quality and access to care where and when they need it.”
“Our brave men and women have sacrificed a great deal to safeguard our freedoms, and it is imperative that Congress meets their needs, no matter where they live. By guaranteeing availability of mental health professionals, increasing access to efficient transportation options, and enhancing our rural VA facilities, we can ensure rural veterans receive the same level of care that veterans in urban areas receive. It is an honor to partner with Senator Udall in a bipartisan effort to provide veterans with the benefits they earned,” said Heller.
More detail on the bill’s provisions follows:
Mental Health Care Enhancement: Too many veterans are suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other service connected mental health issues without access to the care that they deserve. Veterans who are not able to access adequate mental health care are also at a higher risk of committing suicide. Many veterans do not respond to traditional forms of therapy for their service connected disability and options for alternative and complementary medicine are not widely available to veterans living in rural and highly rural areas. This bill address this gap in care by:
- Making fee-for-service available to veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, or other service connected mental health issues under certain conditions where treatment at a clinic serving rural veterans is not available or where treatment options such as complementary or alternative medicine, including traditional Native American healing methods are not available.
Improving Transportation in Rural Areas: For a veteran living in rural areas, getting to appointments at larger VHA medical facilities for more than basic care can be a major logistical challenge. Older veterans who are unable to travel without support may put off needed treatments because of the distance. The bill attempts to address this issue by building on the current grant program to support veterans in highly rural areas. It:
- Authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a grant program to provide options to provide innovative transportation options to veterans in rural areas.
- Does not require matching funds for grants up to $100,000 max.
Retaining and Training Health Care Professionals: Rural and highly rural veterans struggle with high turnover among the doctors and staff at rural clinics. This bill addresses the issue of staff retention by:
- Creating a pilot program that would offer financial incentives to reduce turnover among rural clinic staff.
- Working with university medical programs to create curriculum for rural health care training to better prepare doctors and nurses for work in rural communities.
- Streamlining the hiring of military medical professionals into the Veterans Health Care system.
Rural Veterans Affairs Facilities Improvement: To help prioritize repairs and expansions, the bill would require a full assessment of VA CBOCs. With tight budgets, this will help save money and improve care for vets.
- The bill also requires a report to Congress on the feasibility and advisability of expanding Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers or Polytrauma Network sites, which treat victims of multiple traumatic injuries, such as serious head injuries and burns.