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Congressional Dish

Updated 8 days ago

Government & Organizations
News & Politics
Society & Culture
National
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Congressional Dish is a twice-monthly podcast that aims to draw attention to where the American people truly have power: Congress. From the perspective of a fed up taxpayer with no allegiance to any political party, Jennifer Briney will fill you in on the must-know information about what our representatives do AFTER the elections and how their actions can and will affect our day to day lives. Hosted by @JenBriney. Links to information sources available at www.congressionaldish.com

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Congressional Dish is a twice-monthly podcast that aims to draw attention to where the American people truly have power: Congress. From the perspective of a fed up taxpayer with no allegiance to any political party, Jennifer Briney will fill you in on the must-know information about what our representatives do AFTER the elections and how their actions can and will affect our day to day lives. Hosted by @JenBriney. Links to information sources available at www.congressionaldish.com

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By Gene Everett 187 - Aug 11 2019
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Updated 2019 Still enjoying this podcast years later 👍 Since Trump admin You can once in a blue moon tell Jens politics but overall she does a good job at separating her views. All in all great listen but yes once in a while she can her her views come into it. She’s human guys relax!

In the best tradition of The More you Know.

By dmclerno - Jan 16 2019
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A serious look at Congressional shenanigans. All the things they do not want you to know.

iTunes Ratings

633 Ratings
Average Ratings
569
18
12
12
22

👍👍👍👍👍

By Gene Everett 187 - Aug 11 2019
Read more
Updated 2019 Still enjoying this podcast years later 👍 Since Trump admin You can once in a blue moon tell Jens politics but overall she does a good job at separating her views. All in all great listen but yes once in a while she can her her views come into it. She’s human guys relax!

In the best tradition of The More you Know.

By dmclerno - Jan 16 2019
Read more
A serious look at Congressional shenanigans. All the things they do not want you to know.
Cover image of Congressional Dish

Congressional Dish

Updated 8 days ago

Read more

Congressional Dish is a twice-monthly podcast that aims to draw attention to where the American people truly have power: Congress. From the perspective of a fed up taxpayer with no allegiance to any political party, Jennifer Briney will fill you in on the must-know information about what our representatives do AFTER the elections and how their actions can and will affect our day to day lives. Hosted by @JenBriney. Links to information sources available at www.congressionaldish.com

Rank #1: CD048: The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

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For this episode, I read the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The following is a resource for finding information within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. My goal was to highlight the portions of the bill that will most directly affect our lives and put them into plain, understandable English. I'd also like for you to be able to find the text that makes these rules within the bill. The easiest way to search within a bill is by section number. You'll have to read a bit to find exactly what you're looking for, but this outline will tell you which section you can find the different provisions in. Anything "in quotes" is exact text from the bill. There are two versions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148) you can read. This version is 906 pages. This version is 2,409 pages (the margins and the font are bigger). If you are going to attempt to read the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, you must know that Title X amends the first nine titles and The Reconciliation Act amended the whole bill. This means that the law is often not what the text says. Here is a section by section summary of the changes made by Title 10 and the Reconciliation Act. This document was provided to the United States Senate for clarification. TITLE I: "QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL AMERICANS Subtitle A: "Immediate Improvements in Health Care Coverage for All Americans" Section 1001: Rules on health insurance minimums that became effective immediately

  • Insurance company can't drop you when you get sick, unless you committed fraud
  • Health insurance plans have to provide - at no extra charge:
  • All of the preventatives services on this list
  • Immunizations
  • Preventative care screenings for kids
  • Kids can stay on their parent's insurance plans until their 26th birthday
  • Insurance companies must cover at least 60% of medical payments
  • The health insurance companies need to provide customers with a summary of benefits, which can only be 4 pages long with a minimum of 12-pt font and must include limitations, co-payments, deductibles, and percentage of medical costs covered by the insurance company.
  • If they fail to provide the summary, the health insurer has to pay $1,000 for each customer who didn't receive it
  • Employers are not allowed to only offer coverage to their high-paid employees

Section 1001 as changed by amendment (See Section 10101):

  • No lifetime limits or "unreasonable annual limits" on the value of benefits for any customer
  • They can place limits on things that are not essential health benefits
  • Gun ownership health dangers must be ignored:
  • Prevention programs can not collect information related to the presence of guns or ammunition in someone's home
  • Premium rates can not be affected by the presence of a gun in someone's home
  • Medical Loss Ratio
  • Health insurance companies covering large groups must spend 85% of your premiums on you, or they have to issue a rebate check.
  • Health insurance companies covering people in the individual market or small groups through exchanges have to spend 80% of your premiums on you or issue a rebate check.
  • Hospitals must publish a list of standard charges for their services.
  • Health insurance companies have to let you go to any primary care doctor that you choose and who can accept you
  • The insurance company must have an appeals process for customers and must continue coverage while claims are in appeals
  • If you get treatment in an out-of-network emergency room, your health insurance has to pay for those services.
  • Health insurance companies can't require prior approval for emergency services.
  • Health insurance companies can not require advance approval to go to get gynecological services.

Section 1003: Premium Increase Reviews

  • The Federal government and the States will review annual premium increases.
  • States can recommend that a health insurance company be excluded from the exchange for unjustified premium increases.

Subtitle B: "Immediate Actions to Preserve and Expand Coverage" Section 1101: Creates the "high risk health insurance pool program" to cover people with pre-existing conditions until January 1, 2014

  • Could only be run by non-profit private insurers or States
  • Insurer had to cover at least 65% of customer's medical costs
  • Could vary premiums based on age no more than a 4:1 ratio
  • Only open to United States citizens or lawful residents who had no health insurance for the 6 months prior to enrollment
  • Provided $5 billion (this money ran out & the government stopped accepting new applicants on February 15, 2013 - the House Republicans would have added money only if the Public Health fund were defunded, as explained in episode CD026)
  • High risk pool ends on January 1, 2014 and customers will then buy their insurance on the exchanges, when health insurers will not be allowed to deny them coverage anymore

Section 1102: Reimbursement for employers who give health coverage to "early retirees"

  • Employers who provide health insurance to people over 55 years old but under 65 (when Medicare kicks in) will be reimbursed for a portion of that expense.
  • Payments will be 80% of the amount over $15,000 up to $90,000.
  • Payments must be used for health care expenses & can not be used as general revenue or count as income.
  • Provided $5 billion for this program
  • Program ends on January 1, 2014, when everyone can buy insurance on the exchanges

Section 1104:

  • Orders the Secretary of Health & Human Services to develop "uniform standards" for health information electronic data entry
  • The rules will be for communication between hospitals/doctors and the health insurance companies.
  • Allows for the creation of "machine readable identification cards"
  • Penalty fee will be assessed beginning on April 1, 2014 for health insurance companies that don't comply
  • Fee is $1 per customer covered until they've completed the electronic information requirements. The fee is imposed for each day the plan is not in compliance.
  • The fee is increased annually and capped at $20 per customer or $40 per customer if the insurance company purposely provides false or incomplete information.
  • Penalty fees are paid to the Treasury Department and are due November 1 of each year starting in 2014.

Subtitle C: "Quality Health Insurance Coverage for All Americans" Section 1201: Health Insurance Market Reforms

  • Health insurance companies can not exclude someone for having a pre-existing condition
  • This law became effective for children starting six months after the Affordable Care Act was signed
  • Premium rates are allowed to vary based on the following factors only:
  • The number of people covered by the plan (individual or family)
  • Location
  • Age, but the rate can not vary more than a 3:1 ratio for adults
  • Tobacco use, but the rate can not vary more than a 1.5:1 ratio
  • Health insurance companies must accept every employer or individual customer who applies for coverage during their open enrollment periods.
  • Health insurance companies can not deny a customer coverage due to health status, mental or physical illnesses, history of claims, medical history, genetic information, domestic violence history, disability, or any other health-related factor.
  • Health insurance companies also have to renew your insurance policy
  • Health insurance companies can offer rebates or premium discounts as a reward to customers' participation in wellness programs including:
  • Reimbursement for fitness center memberships
  • A disease testing program that does not base the reward on outcomes
  • Waiving co-payments or deductibles for preventative care visits (prenatal care & well-baby visits)
  • Reimbursement for programs that help people quit smoking, regardless of whether or not they can actually quit
  • A reward for attending health education seminars
  • Waiting periods can not be longer than 90 days
  • This does not apply to the individual market  (added by Section 10103)

Section 1201 as changed by amendment (See Section 10103)

  • Health insurance companies can't deny coverage for approved clinical trials for treatment of cancer or another life-threatening disease.

Section 1251: Grandfathered health care plans

  • Nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces an individual to cancel the coverage they currently have.
  • Grandfathered plans are exempt from the provisions of Subtitle A and Subtitle C, except for the provisions specifically listed below.
  • New employees and their families can be enrolled in health plans that existed before the Affordable Care Act was enacted.

Section 1251 as changed by amendment (See Section 10103)

  • Grandfathered plans must provide the easily understood summary of benefits from Section 1001 to their customers.
  • Grandfathered plans must issue rebate checks under the Medical Loss Ratio just like new plans
  • Health insurance companies covering large groups must spend 85% of your premiums on you, or they have to issue a rebate check.
  • Health insurance companies covering people in the individual market or small groups through exchanges have to spend 80% of your premiums on you or issue a rebate check.

Section 1251 as changed by the Reconciliation Act (See Public Law 111-152)

  • Grandfathered plans are prohibited from enforcing waiting periods over 30 days.
  • Grandfathered plans are prohibited from enforcing lifetime or annual limits to coverage (group plans only).
  • Grandfathered plans can not drop you when you get sick.
  • Grandfathered plans will also have to cover children until their 26th birthday.
  • Grandfathered plans can not refuse an employee with pre-existing conditions.

Subtitle D: "Available Coverage Choices for All Americans" Section 1302: Essential Health Benefits Requirements

  • Essential health benefits to be included in all "qualified health plans":
  • Ambulances
  • Emergency room services
  • Hospitalizations
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitation services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventative care
  • Chronic disease management
  • Pediatric care, including dental and vision
  • Health insurance companies are allowed to cover more than these minimums
  • Coverage for emergency services  can not require prior authorization
  • Health insurance companies can't limit coverage because the ambulance took you to an out-of-network emergency room
  • Out of pocket expense caps
  • In 2014, an individual can not be charged more than $5,000/year for out-of-pocket expenses (not including premiums); after that, it can be increased by the same percentage as premium increases.
  • Deductibles for employer-paid plans are capped at $2,000/year for individuals or $4,000/year for family plans. After 2014, these numbers can be increased by the same percentage as premium increases.
  • Out-of-pocket caps do not include amounts for non-network providers or non-covered services
  • Levels of Coverage
  • Bronze: Covers 60% of medical costs
  • Silver: Covers 70% of medical costs
  • Gold: Covers 80% of medical costs
  • Platinum: Covers 90% of medical costs
  • Catastrophic Coverage available only on the individual market
  • Plan provides no benefits until the person has spent the $5,000/year out-of-pocket limit (or whatever the limit is for that year, adjusted for inflation)
  • Available only to people under 30 years old
  • Available only if a monthly premium would exceed 8% of that person's income

Section 1303 as changed by amendment (See Section 10104): Abortion Rules

  • States can prohibit abortions from being offered by health insurance plans offered through the exchange.
  • States must pass a law to do this.
  • Health insurance plans do not need to include abortions.
  • No Federal funds can be used to pay for abortions.
  • No hospital or doctor's office can be discriminated against by insurance companies for not providing abortions.

Section 1311: Health Insurance Exchanges

  • States will be given Federal grants to set up their own health insurance exchanges, which are websites where people will compare and purchase their insurance plans.
  • Grants will stop being awarded on January 1, 2015.
  • Exchanges will include an "enrollee" satisfaction system for plans covering more than 500 people.
  • Secretary must determine yearly open enrollment periods
  • Stand-alone dental plans will be allowed on the exchanges.
  • States are allowed to require more benefits than the Federal government requires, but must make up cost to individuals for extra costs if they're eligible for a tax credit.
  • By 2015, exchanges must be self-sustaining and can charge user fees.
  • Exchanges have to publish all payments required by the Exchange & the administrative costs.
  • Interstate and regional exchanges are allowed.
  • Creates "navigator" positions
  • They will inform the public on the health plans, help people enroll, and help people understand their tax credits.
  • Navigators are not allowed be employees of the health insurance industry

Section 1311 as changed by amendments (See Section 10104)

  • Health insurance companies need to publicly disclose - in plain language - information on claims payment policies, enrollment, denials, out-of-network charges, and customer rights.

Section 1312: Health Insurance Eligibility & Members of Congress

  • All customers in with a company's individual plan will be considered part of a one risk pool.
  • All customers enrolled as employees of small businesses will be considered part of one risk pool.
  • The individual and small business pools may be merged if the State determines it appropriate.
  • Starting in 2017, States can permit large employers (over 101 employees) to offer insurance through the Exchange.
  • Health insurance companies can offer insurance outside of the Exchanges.
  • Only United States citizens and lawfully present foreigners will be allowed to purchase health insurance on the Exchange.
  • Prisoners will not be eligible to buy insurance on Exchanges while they're still incarcerated
  • The Federal Government can only offer health plans to members of Congress that are offered through an Exchange.

Section 1312 as changed by amendment (See Section 10104)

  • Agents and brokers are allowed to enroll employers and individuals in health insurance plans and help them apply for tax credits and out-of-pocket reductions.

Section 1321: States Must Create Exchanges or Federal Government Will Do It For Them

  • Department of Health and Human Services will provide an exchange for a State if the State will not have it's own operational by January 1, 2014.

Section 1322: Grants for Creation of Non-Profit, Member-Run Health Insurance Companies

  • The goal is to have at least one non-profit, member-run health insurance company in each State offer insurance on the individual and small business exchanges.
  • If a State doesn't have a non-profit, member-run option, they will be loaned money to create one or to have one from elsewhere expand into their State.
  • The loan must be repaid within 15 years (added by Section 10104)
  • The non-profit, member-run health insurance companies are not allowed to use Federal funds for marketing.
  • A health insurance company will not count as a non-profit, member-run insurance company unless "any profits made by the organization are required to be used to lower premiums, to improve benefits, or for other programs intended to improve the quality of health care delivered to its members."
  • Non-profit, member-run health insurance companies will be tax exempt.

Section 1323: Optional State Public Option (Killed by amendment: See Section 10104)

  • States are allowed to offer a public option, labeled "community health insurance", but they are not required to.

Section 1331: States Can Buy Insurance for Low-Income People Who Don't Qualify for Medicaid or Medicare

  • To qualify for this program, if offered by your State:
  • Must be a resident of the offering State
  • Must be under 65 years old
  • Your income needs to be between 133%-200% of the poverty level

Section 1332: Waiver for States That Develop A Better System

  • States that develop a system that covers as much and costs the same or less than the Federal system can apply for a waiver. If granted, they can enact their own system.
  • The new system could begin on January 1, 2017.

Section 1333: Allows Health Insurance Plans to Be Sold To Multiple States

  • Health insurance companies would have to be licensed in all the States where its plans are sold.
  • Health insurance companies would have to "clearly notify consumers that the policy may not be subject to all the laws and regulations of the State in which the purchaser resides."
  • Plans sold in multiple states - "health care choice compacts"- can begin on January 1, 2016.

Section 1334 as added by amendment (See Section 10104): National Health Insurance Plans

  • The Director of the Office of Personnel Management will contract with at least two insurance companies to offer insurance to the individual and small group markets in every state.
  • At least one of these companies must be non-profit.
  • Plans need to be licensed in each State where they offer coverage.
  • States can require health insurance companies to offer additional benefits but must pay the additional cost.
  • The multi-state insurance plans will be nationwide within four years.

Section 1341: Insurance Companies Will Have Insurance for "High-Risk" Customers for First 3 Years Subtitle E: "Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans" Section 1401 as amended by Section 1001 of the Reconciliation Act: Tax Credits

  • The premium used for calculation is the second-lowest silver plan in the individual market where the taxpayer lives.

Section 1402: Out-of-Pocket Limits Reduced

  • Only applies to people who have purchased Silver Level coverage on an Exchange
  • The standard out-of-pocket limits ($5,950 for individuals and $11,900 for families) would be reduced for people making under 400% of the poverty level.
  • Reduction Levels:
  • People making 100%-200% of the poverty level will have their limit reduced by 2/3.
  • People making 201%-300% of the poverty level will have their limit reduced by 1/2.
  • People making 301%-400% of the poverty level will have their limit reduced by 1/3.
  • No health insurance company will ever pay more than 94% of medical costs (increased by Section 1001 of the Reconciliation Act).
  • The Federal Government will pay the health insurance companies for the amount they reduce out-of-pocket limits
  • Illegal immigrants are not eligible.

*Tax Credit / Premium Calculator Section 1411: How Government Will Determine Eligibility & Grant Individual Exemptions

  • People or employers who disregard regulations and provide false information are subject to a $25,000 fine.
  • People or employers who purposefully provide false information are subject to a $250,000 fine.
  • No property can be taken away if the person or company doesn't pay the penalty.

Section 1412: Advance Payment of Tax Credits and Out-of-Pocket Reductions

  • Premium tax credits can be claimed in advance to help pay for premiums.

Section 1415: Premium Tax Credits Don't Count As Income Section 1421 as changed by amendment (See Section 10105): Small Business Tax Credit

  • Eligible employers must:
  • Have fewer than 25 employees and
  • Pay average annual wages of less than $50,000/year.
  • Pay at least 50% of total premiums.
  • Eligible employers who purchase coverage through the State exchange can get a tax credit of up to 50% of their health insurance costs.
  • Tax-exempt eligible employers can get a tax credit of up to 35% of their health insurance costs.

Subtitle F: "Shared Responsibility for Health Care" Section 1501 as changed by amendment (See Section 10106): The Individual Mandate

  • Individuals must ensure that they and their dependents have health coverage every month starting in 2014.
  • If individuals fail to get themselves and their dependents covered, they will pay a penalty for each month they and their dependents were uncovered. (see Section 1002 of the Reconciliation Act)
  • The penalty in 2014 will be $95 or 1% of income, whichever is higher
  • The penalty in 2015 will be $325 or 2% of income, whichever is higher
  • The penalty in 2016 and after will be $695 or 2.5% of income, whichever is higher.
  • Penalties are capped at the cost of the national average for a bronze plan premium.
  • Exemptions are allowed:
  • For people in an exempt religious sect
  • For members of a health care sharing ministry
  • For Native Americans
  • For people below 100% of the poverty level who can't afford available health insurance options
  • People who have a coverage gap of less than three months (if the gap goes longer than three months, they get no exemption for any of that time)
  • People who have proven to the Department of Health and Human Services that they have an extraordinary hardship.
  • You can not be criminally prosecuted, thrown in jail, or have your property taken away if you fail to pay the penalty.

Section 1502: Health Insurance Companies Will Report Your Coverage Status to the Government

  • Every year, the Treasury Department will send notices to people who didn't get coverage telling them what is available to them on their State's exchange.

Section 1503: Automatic Enrollment for Workers with Large Employers

  • Companies with over 200 employees will automatically enroll their new full-time employees in one of the health plans they offer.
  • Employees are allowed to opt out of their employer provided coverage.

Section 1512: Workers Must Be Informed of Better Options

  • If a company's health insurance plan doesn't cover at least 60% of medical expenses, the worker might be eligible for premium tax credits and out-of-pocket limit reductions.
  • Companies need to inform their workers about the exchanges and provide a description of the exchange's services.

Section 1513 as amended by Section 1003 the Reconciliation Act: Employers With Over 50 Employees

  • Starting January 1, 2014, they must offer their employees health insurance.
  • If one or more of their employees received tax credits or an out-of-pocket limit reduction on the exchange, the employer will be fined $2,000 per full-time employee.
  • They will not have to pay the penalty for the first 30 full-time employees.
  • If the employer offers health insurance but the employee claims tax credits and/or out-of-pocket limit reductions on the exchange, the employer will be charged either $3,000 per employee receiving tax credits or $2,000 per full-time employee minus the first 30 employees, whichever is less.
  • Employers can not have waiting periods for health coverage of over 60 days. (Eliminated by the Reconciliation Act)
  • Fines are not tax deductible.
  • Seasonal workers - that work less than 120 days per year -do not count as full-time employees.

Section 1514: Large Employers Must Report Your Coverage Status to Government Section 1553: No One Can Discriminate Against Anyone Else For Not Providing Doctor Assisted Suicide Section 1558: Protection For Employees

  • Employers may not fire or discriminate against any worker who reports, testifies, or helps the government prosecute an employer that has violated the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1560: Hawaii Can Keep Its Health Care System Section 1563: CBO Estimates The Affordable Care Act Will Reduce Budget Deficits TITLE II: "ROLE OF PUBLIC PROGRAMS" Subtitle A: Improved Access to Medicaid Section 2001 as amended by Section 10201: Medicaid for Poor People

        • Starting in 2014, anyone making under 133% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for Medicaid's health benefits.
        • Medicaid's health benefits will include the essential benefits required of all health insurance plans on exchanges, prescription drugs, and mental health services.
        • The Federal Government will pay States for the new Medicaid expenses at the following rates (changed by Section 1201 of the Reconciliation Act):
        • 100% for 2014-2016
        • 95% for 2017
        • 93% for 2019
        • 90% for ever

*The June 28, 2012 Supreme Court ruling effectively made the Medicaid expansion optional for the States. The result is that unfortunate souls making under 133% of the Federal Poverty Level and living in States that have turned down the Federal Government money will not have health care coverage. Via: The Advisory Board Company Section 2004 as amended by Section 10201: Medicaid for Foster Children

  • Beginning in 2014, States must cover former foster children in their Medicaid programs

Subtitle B: "Enhanced Support For the Children's Health Insurance Program" Section 2101: Federal Financing of Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

  • Federal Government will increase its contribution to States' CHIP programs by 23%, funding up to 100%.

Subtitle C: "Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment Simplification" Section 2201: Electronic Enrollment

  • By January 1, 2014, States must create websites that allow individuals to apply and enroll in Medicaid and CHIP
  • States that fail to create the website will lose their Federal Medicaid money.

Section 2202: Hospital Enrollment in Medicaid

  • Allows hospitals to determine whether a person qualifies for Medicaid based on preliminary information in order to provide them with medical assistance.

Subtitle D: "Improvements to Medicaid Services" Section 2301: Free-Standing Birth Centers

  • Requires Medicaid cover services from free-standing birth centers.

Section 2303: Family Planning Services

  • States can, but don't have to, provide family planning services as part of Medicaid.

Subtitle E: "New Options for States to Provide Long-Term Services and Supports" Section 2401: At Home Services Option

  • Allows States to cover at home services - the kind that would usually be offered in an institution - to people under 150% of the poverty level.

Subtitle F: "Medicaid Prescription Drug Coverage" Section 2501: Prescription Drug Rebates

  • Increases rebates for prescription drugs up to 100% of the cost of the drug.

Section 2502: Additional Drugs Covered

  • Drugs to help quit smoking, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines will be covered by Medicaid starting on January 1, 2014.

Subtitle G: "Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Payments" Section 2551: Payment Reductions

  • Reduces Federal payments to certain hospitals.

Subtitle H: "Improved Coordination for Dual Eligible Beneficiaries" Section 2602: Medicaid and Medicare Coordination

  • Creates a Federal Coordinated Health Care Office to coordinate the benefits of individuals who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare.

Subtitle I: "Improving the Quality of Medicaid for Patients and Providers" Section 2703: Care for Medicaid Patients with Chronic Conditions

  • Gives States the option to create teams of health professionals to manage care for Medicaid patients with chronic conditions.
  • Chronic conditions include:
  • Mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Obesity

Subtitle K: "Protections for American Indians and Alaska Natives" Section 2901: No Out-of-Pocket Costs for Certain Indians

  • Indians at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level will not have to pay out-of-pocket costs for insurance they get through a state exchange

TITLE III: IMPROVING THE QUALITY AND EFFICIENCY OF HEALTH CARE Subtitle A: "Transforming the Health Care Delivery System" Section 3001: Links Hospital Payments to Performance

  • Starting in 2013, a percentage of hospital payments will be tied to performance in treating common high-cost conditions (cardiac issues, surgeries, pneumonia, etc.)

Section 3007: New System for Physician Payments

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services must create a new budget-neutral payment system that will adjust Medicare payments to physicians based on the quality of care they deliver.
  • New system will be phased in over two years beginning in 2015.

Section 3008: Penalties for Poor Performance

  • Hospitals in the top 25th percentile for rates of diseases caught inside the hospital will have a payment penalty through Medicare.

Section 3011: National Strategy

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services has to establish our national strategy to improve health care delivery and overall population health.

Section 3025: Readmissions Reduction

  • Ties Medicare payments to hospitals with the hospitals percentage of potentially preventable readmissions to the hospital.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services will make readmission rates for certain conditions at every hospital available to the public.

Subtitle B: "Improving Medicare for Patients and Providers" Section 3112: Eliminates "Medicare Improvement Fund"

  • Saves over $22 billion

Rest of Subtitle creates new systems and changes the way Medicare charges paid for by the government. Subtitle C: "Provisions Related to Part C" Section 3201: Limited Medicare Advantage Payments (Killed by Section 1102 of the Reconciliation Act) Section 3202: Prevents Private Medicare Advantage Plans from Overcharging

  • Prohibits private Medicare Advantage plans from charging more for basic Medicare services than actual Medicare charges.
  • Medicare Advantage plans that offer extra benefits must prioritize reductions in out-of-pocket expenses and preventative care over their extra goodies.

Section 3204: Seniors Can Return to Actual Medicare

  • Seniors will be allowed to unenroll in their Medicare Advantage plans and return to real Medicare from January 1-March 15 of every year.

Section 3209: Medicare Advantage Plan Denial Allowed

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services now has the authority to prohibit Medicare Advantage plans that significantly increase cost to customers or decrease benefits offered to seniors.

Subtitle D: "Medicare Part D Improvements for Prescription Drug Plans and MA-PD Plans" Section 3301: Donut Hole Discount Program

  • Medicare Part D private insurance plans pay 75% of drug costs up until $2,970 is spent and then start paying 95% once the senior has spent $4,750. Between $2,960 and $4,750, the insurance company pays nothing. This window is known as the "coverage gap" or "donut hole".
  • This section requires drug manufacturers provide a 50% discount for brand name drugs for seniors while paying out-of-pocket for drugs in the coverage gap.
  • Even though they only pay 50% of cost, the full price of the drug will count as paid so that they get out of the coverage gap sooner.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services was put in charge of implementation.

Section 1101 of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act

  • Provides a $250 rebate to seniors who enter the "coverage gap""donut hole".
  • Closes the Medicare Part D "coverage gap" "donut hole" by 2020.

Section 3308: Reduces Medicare Subsidy for High-Income Seniors Section 3311: Medicare Advantage & Medicare Part D Complaint System

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services will create a system so that seniors can submit complaints about the private Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D drug plans

Subtitle E: "Ensuring Medicare Sustainablity" Section 3401: Changes Payment Structures for Medicare Payments Section 3402: Freezes Premiums for High Income Seniors at 2010 Levels until 2019 Section 3403: Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)

  • Creates a 15 member board to propose ways to reduce the growth of Medicare spending.
  • The board's recommendations will not go into effect during years that the Medicare growth rate is under control.
  • The board will make non-binding recommendations during years when the Medicare growth rate is under control (added by Section 10320).
  • The board is not allowed to propose anything that rations care, raises taxes, raises premiums for actual Medicare, increases out-of-pocket expenses for seniors, or reduces benefits.
  • The board's suggestions will take effect unless Congress enacts alternative legislation that achieves the same level of  savings.

Subtitle F: "Health Care Quality Improvements" Provides funding for a variety of programs. Subtitle G: "Protecting and Improving Guaranteed Medicare Benefits" Section 3601: Nothing in This Law Can Cut Medicare Benefits Section 3602: Nothing in This Law Can Cut Medicare Advantage Benefits TITLE IV: PREVENTION OF CHRONIC DISEASE AND IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH Subtitle A: "Modernizing Disease Prevention and Public Health Systems" Section 4002: Prevention and Public Health Fund

  • Will provide $2 billion a year (starting in 2015) for public health programs that include research, health screenings, and immunizations.

Subtitle B: "Increasing Access to Clinical Preventative Services" Section 4103: Free Wellness Plan for Medicare Seniors

  • Seniors will get a physical their first year on Medicare and risk assessments every year following without having to pay a co-pay or deductible.

Section 4107: Help to Quit Smoking for Pregnant Women on Medicaid

  • States must provide counseling and products to help pregnant woman on Medicaid quit smoking with no out-of-pocket costs.

Subtitle C: "Creating Healthier Communities" Section 4205: Nutrition Labeling at Chain Restaurants

  • Chain restaurants with 20 or more locations have to provide the number of calories (or a calorie range for combo meals) on menus, boards, and drive-thru boards.
  • Upon request by a customer, they must be able to provide calories from fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, and protein.

Section 4207: Break Time for Nursing Mothers

  • Employers must allow nursing mothers break time to milk themselves.
  • The employers do not have to pay the mothers for that time.
  • Employers with under 50 employees are exempt.

Subtitle D: "Support for Prevention and Public Health Innovation" Funds research and other programs. TITLE V: HEALTH CARE WORKFORCE Subtitle A: "Purpose and Definitions" Subtitle B: "Innovations in the Health Care Workforce" Creates a commission and provides grants. Subtitle C: "Increasing the Supply of the Health Care Workforce" Section 5201: Federally Funded Medical Student Loans

  • Federal government will help pay medical student loans if the student agrees to practice as a primary care physician for 10 years.
  • Decreases the penalty for students who don't comply.

Section 5202: Increases Student Loan Amounts for Nursing Students Section 5203: Federal Government Loan Payback for Pediatric Medicine Students

  • If the student agrees to work full-time providing pediatric services, the Federal government will help pay their student loans up to $35,000 a year.

Section 5204: Federal Government Service in Return For Loan Repayment

  • If a medical student agrees to work for the government for 3 years or longer, the government will pay up to $35,000 of that student's loans.

Subtitle D: "Enhancing Health Care Workforce Education and Training" Subtitle E: "Supporting the Existing Health Care Workforce" Subtitle F: "Strengthening Primary Care and Other Workforce Improvements" Subtitle G: "Improving Access to Health Care Services" Section 5601: Provides Funding for Community Health Centers TITLE VI: TRANSPARENCY AND PROGRAM INTEGRITY Subtitle A: "Physician Ownership and Other Transparency" Section 6001: New For-Profit Doctor-Owned Hospitals Can Not Participate in Medicare Section 6002: Reporting on Industry Payments to Doctors

  • Starting on March 31, 2013, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers must report any kind of payments that they make to doctors.
  • Manufacturers must report any ownership or investment relationships their doctor customers have with the company.
  • Penalties for not reporting
  • Between $1,000 an $10,000 for each payment that was not reported, capped at $150,000.
  • If the manufacturer knowingly failed to report a payment, the penalty is $10,000-$100,000 for each payment that was not reported, capped at $1,000,000.
  • The payment information reported on by manufacturers must be posted on a searchable website by September 30, 2013 (this has been delayed one year).

Section 6004: Reports on Prescription Drug Samples

  • Drug manufacturers and distributors must report the identity and quantity of drug samples requested and distributed every year.

Section 6005: Pharmacy Reports

  • Pharmacies need to report on their generic drug dispensing rate, rebates, discounts, and price concessions.

Subtitle B: "Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement" Section 6103: Nursing Home Comparison Website

  • The Department of Health and Human Services will operate a website that will allow customers to compare nursing homes by providing staffing data, certifications, complaints, and criminal violations.

Section 6105: Creates a Standard Complaint Form Section 6111: Penalties Reduced for Self Reporting

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services will be allowed to reduce penalties by 50% for facilities that report their own violations

Subtitle C: "Nationwide Program for National and State Background Checks on Direct Patient Access Employees of Long Term Care Facilities and Providers" Section 6201: Background Checks

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish a system for doing background checks that include fingerprints on employees of long term care facilities.

Subtitle D: "Patient Centered Outcomes Research" Subtitle E: "Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP Program Integrity Provisions" Section 6401: Provider Screenings

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services must establish procedures for screening providers and suppliers for Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP
  • All screening will include license checks
  • Secretary can impose additional screenings including fingerprinting, background checks, and random visits.
  • Providers and suppliers will have to report shady affiliations, suspended payments, if they're excluded from other Federal programs, and/or if they've had their billing privileges revoked.
  • There will be an application fee of $200 for individual doctors and $500 for institutions every five years.

Section 6404: Medicare Claims Must be Made Within 12 Months Section 6407: Physicians Must Have Face-to-Face Meeting With Patient Before Certifying Home Services Section 6411: Recovery Audit Contractors

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish contracts with auditors who will identify under and overpayments and collect overpayments for Medicaid services.
  • The Secretary is required to include Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D.

Subtitle F: "Additional Medicaid Program Integrity Provisions" Section 6501: Medicaid Termination

  • States must terminate a Medicaid program if they were kicked out of Medicare or another State's Medicaid program.

Section 6502: Medicaid Exclusions

    • Medicaid must exclude an individual or company that owns or manages something that:
  • Has unpaid overpayments
  • Is suspended or excluded from participation
  • Is affiliated with someone who is suspended or excluded from participation

Section 6505: No Payments Can Go Outside of the United States Subtitle G: "Additional Program Integrity Provisions" Section 6601: Prohibits False Statements

  • Insurance company employees can be prosecuted and sentenced up to 10 years in prison and fined if they lie about the plan's financial solvency, benefits, or regulatory status.

Subtitle H: "Elder Justice Act" TITLE VII: IMPROVING ACCESS TO INNOVATIVE MEDICAL THERAPIES Subtitle A: "Biologics Price Comparison" Subtitle B: "More Affordable Medicines for Children and Underserved Communities" TITLE VIII: "CLASS ACT"(Repealed) TITLE IX: "REVENUE PROVISIONS" Section 9001 as amended by Section 1401 of the Reconciliation Act: Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer Paid Insurance Plans

  • Starting in 2018, there will be a on insurance companies for any health plan that costs more than $10,200 for single coverage and $27,500 for family coverage.
  • The tax is 40% of the amount of the premium above $10,200 and $27,500.
  • The tax begins at $11,850 for individuals and $30,950 for families for plans covering people over 55 and in high risk professions.
  • The tax does not apply to plans sold on the individual market; it only applies to employer paid plans.
  • The tax does not apply to stand alone dental or vision plans.

Section 9002: Employer-Paid Health Benefits Will be Included on W-2 Forms Section 9008 as amended by Section 1404 of the Reconciliation Act: Pharmaceutical Industry Fee

  • A fee of at least $2.8 billion a year will be divided by market share and paid by pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

Section 9009 as amended by Section 1405 of the Reconciliation Act: The Medical Device Tax

  • There will be a 2.3% deductible tax on the sale of medical devices to be paid by the manufacturer or importer.
  • The tax is not applied to items sold directly to the public such as eyeglasses, contacts, etc.

Section 9010 as amended by Section 1406 of the Reconciliation Act: Tax on Health Insurance Companies

  • A non-deductible fee will be divided amongst all health insurance companies based on market share every year.
  • The fee will not apply to insurance companies that make less than $50 million in net premiums.
  • The fee will not apply to government or employers.
  • Non-profits who get more than 80% of their money from government programs are exempt.
  • The fee is:
  • $8 billion in 2014
  • $11.3 billion in 2015-2016
  • $13.9 billion in 2017
  • $14.3 billion in 2018
  • 2019 and beyond: The previous year's fee increased by the rate of premium growth

Section 9012: Eliminate Incentives For Employers to Enroll in Medicare Part D Section 9013: Raises Threshold for Medical Expenses Deduction

  • Increases from 7.5% to 10%
  • Individuals over 65 can claim the deduction at 7.5% until 2016

Section 9014 as changed by amendment (See Section 10906): Tax on Wealthy

  • Increases the hospital insurance tax on people earning over $200,000 a year individually or $250,000 married couples filing together by 0.9%.

Section 9014 as changed by Section 1402 of the Reconciliation Act: Tax on Wealthy Wall Street Income

  • The hospital insurance tax will include a 3.8% tax on income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, and certain rents on people earning over $200,000 a year individually or $250,000 married couples filing together.

Section 9017 as changed by amendment (See Section 10907): Tax on Elective Medical Procedures Indoor Tanning

  • There will be a 5% tax on elective cosmetic surgery
  • There will be a 10% tax on indoor tanning services.

TITLE X: STRENGTHENING QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL AMERICANS Buried in Section 10104: Dismissal of Fraud Cases

              • In it's place, they put this:

Section 10108: Free Choice Vouchers

  • If a worker's health insurance contribution through their employer will be between 8%-9.8%, their employer has to offer them a voucher that will pay the employee's share if the worker would like to pick their own plan on the exchange.

Section 10330: Update Computer Data Systems for Medicare and Medicaid

  • Secretary of Health and Human Services must make a plan and determine the budget for modernizing the computer and data systems for Medicare and Medicaid

Additional Provisions from The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act

Section 1103: Stops Medicare Advantage Excessive Profits

  • Medicare Advantage plans must spend 85% of their revenue on medical costs rather than profit and overhead.

Additional Information: Intro and Exit Music: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio) Music: Begging for Change - Healthcare Blues by Peter Alexander Is Obamacare Enough? Without Single-Payer, Patchwork US Healthcare Leaves Millions Uninsured, Democracy Now, October 7, 2013. Treasury Department Memo (describes why the large employer reporting requirements are delayed for a year), July 2, 2013. Obamacare Medical Loss Ratio Saved $1.5 Billion in 2011, Insurance Journal, December 5, 2012.

Oct 13 2013
1 hour 13 mins
Play

Rank #2: CD163: “Net Neutrality”

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The Internet plays an essential role in our modern society and yet the way the Internet will be governed is still unclear. In anticipation of an impending Federal Communications Commission vote to reverse the so called “net neutrality” regulation implemented during the Obama administration, we look at the law which the FCC is trying to enforce. We also examine our current lawmaker’s plans for Internet governance by listening to highlights of three hearings featuring testimony from lawyers from Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

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Bills H.R. 3989: Amend Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 S. 652 (104th): Telecommunications Acto of 1996 Additional Reading References Visual References Sound Clip Sources Senate Select Intelligence Committee: Facebook, Google and Twitter Executives on Russian Election Interference; November 1, 2017 (Senate Social Media)

Witnesses:

  • Colin Stretch - Facebook Vice President & General Counsel
  • Sean Edgett - Twitter Acting General Counsel

  • 1:49:24 Sen. Roy Blunt (MO): Mr. Stretch, how much money did the Russians spend on ads that we now look back as either disruptive or politically intended? It was at $100,000. Is that— Colin Stretch: It was approximately $100,000. Blunt: I meant from your company. Stretch: Yes, approximately $100,000. Blunt: How much of that did they pay before the election? Stretch: The— Blunt: I’ve seen the— Stretch: Yeah. Blunt: —number 44,000. Blunt: Is that right? Stretch: So— Blunt: 56 after, 44 before. Stretch: The ad impressions ran 46% before the election, the remainder after the election. Blunt: 46%. Well, if I had a consultant that was trying to impact an election and spent only 46% of the money before Election Day, I’d be pretty upset about that, I think. So, they spent $46,000. How much did the Clinton and Trump campaigns spend on Facebook? I assume before the election. Stretch: Yeah. Before the elec— Blunt: They were better organized than the other group. Stretch: Approximate—combined approximately $81 million. Blunt: 81 million, and before the election. Stretch: Yes. Blunt: So, 81 million. I’m not a great mathematician, but 46,000, 81 million, would that be, like, five one-thousandths of one percent? It’s something like that. Stretch: It’s a small number by comparison, sir.

  • 2:19:55 Sen. Tom Cotton (AR): Do you see an equivalency between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Russian Intelligence Services? Sean Edgett: We’re not offering our service for surveillance to any government. Cotton: So you will apply the same policy to our Intelligence Community that you apply to an adversary’s intelligence services. Edgett: As a global company, we have to apply our policies consistently. Cotton: This reminds me of the old line from the Cold War, of one who did not see a distinction between the CIA and the KGB on the other hand, because the KGB officer pushed an old lady in front of an oncoming bus, and the CIA officer pushed the old lady out from the path of the oncoming bus, because they both go around pushing old ladies. I hope that Twitter will reconsider its policies when it’s dealing with friendly intelligence services in countries like the United States and the U.K. as opposed to adversarial countries like Russia and China.

House Select Intelligence Committee: Facebook, Google and Twitter Executives on Russian Election Interference; November 1, 2017 (House Social Media)

Witnesses:

  • Kent Walker - Google Senior Vice President & General Counsel
  • Colin Stretch - Facebook Vice President & General Counsel
  • Sean Edgett - Twitter Acting General Counsel

  • 39:05 Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ): Social-media platforms have the responsibility of striking a balance between removing false information and preserving freedom of speech. Can you give us some brief detail of how each of your companies plan to target perceived false news while protecting the robust political discourse? Kent Walker: Let me take that because that was the sort of next stage to my answer to Mr. Shift’s question. We are taking a number of different steps beyond advertising to focus on fake news. We are working to improve our algorithms, to provide additional guidance and training to the Raiders who provide quality feedback for us, and to look at a wider variety of signals to improve the ranking of authentic and genuine news on our sites and to demote sites that we feel are deceptive or misleading. We are also making broader use of fact-check labels, working with third parties, for both Google Search and Google News. And when it comes to advertising, we’ve taken steps to disallow advertising on sites that misrepresent their nature or purpose, and to add to our policies around or against hate speech, incitement of violence, and the like. Colin Stretch: I would group our efforts with respect to false news into three buckets. First, we find that most false news is financially motivated, and we’re making efforts to disrupt the financial incentives. That, we think, will make a big dent in it. Second, we’re looking to stop the spread of it. So when we have information that’s been disputed by independent fact-checkers, we limit the distribution and we alert users who are attempting to share it that it has been disputed. And third, we’re engaged in a number of user-education efforts to help, particularly around the world, users approach some of the content they see with a more discerning eye. Sean Edgett: We’re tackling this challenge in a few ways, and I think the way this was characterized is correct: it’s a balance between free speech and what’s real and what’s false. And we often see there’s a lot of activity on the platform to correct false narratives, and one of those things, for example, is the text-to-vote tweets that we turned over to you, which we took off our platform as illegal voter suppression. The number of tweets that were counteracting that as false and telling people not to believe that was, like, between eight and 10 times what we saw on the actual tweets. But we’re working on the behavior. That’s where we’re focused right now. We’ve had great strides in focusing on that for things like terrorism and child sexual exploitation. We’re trying to figure out how we can use those learnings to stop the amplification of false news or misinformation, and think we’re making great strides there, but it’s a definite balance. We also have work we’ve done, just like my peers, around ads transparency that, I think, is going to help educate the consumer about who’s paying for an ad, what else they’re running, what they’re targeting, what they’re after—especially around electioneering ads, who’s paying for it, how much they’re spending. We are also working with third parties. We have a Trust and Safety council of experts, academics, around the world who are helping us think through the things that we’re trying to employ to tackle these issues and how they will impact the debate and free speech on our platform. So we’re working hard on this, but it’s a challenge.

  • 59:39 Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL): I submit to you that your efforts have to be more than just about finding malicious and deceptive activity, that you have a responsibility—all of you have a responsibility—to make sure that we are not adding to the problem by not being as rigorous and as aggressive as we can in terms of vetting the content and in terms of making sure that we are being really dynamic in doing that. And I also want to just say that I think it’s ridiculous that a foreign entity can buy a political ad with rubles but can’t give a political contribution to me—a Russian person can’t give me a political contribution. There seems to be some legislation that needs to be had here, is all I’m saying.

  • 1:16:05 Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL): Let’s look at unpaid content for a second. Sometimes these fake accounts are pulled down, but the fake story takes the false claims of widespread voter fraud, for example, generated by these accounts have spread thousands of thousands of times, often picked up by legitimate news accounts. What do you do to flag that? What do you sense is your responsibility? And before any of you answer, let me just notice this, that if we’re asking is, are we still in this situation? As of just a short time ago—and I’m talking about when this meeting started—on Twitter, if you clicked on the hashtag “NYCTerroristAttack,” which is “trending,” marked with a red button saying “live,” the top tweet links to an Infowars story with the headline, “Imam: I Warned De Blasio About New York City Terror; He was Too Busy Bashing Trump.” This is a real-time example of when we talk about this information being weaponized. How quickly can you act, and what’s your responsibility to set the record straight so that the people who saw this know that it’s fake news and at least at some point in time it can’t keep spreading like some sort of virus through legitimate world? Sean Edgett: That’s something we’re thinking about all the time because it’s a bad user experience, and we don’t want to be known as a platform for that. In your example, in for instance, the system self-corrected. That’s not—that shouldn’t be the first tweet you see anymore. It should be a USA article, the last time I checked. Quigley: But you saw this. Edgett: USA Today. At lunch I did, yeah, and I also saw the system correct it. Quigley: Can you give me a really good guess on how long it was top? Edgett: We can follow up with you and your staff on that, and I don’t have the stat in front of me. Quigley: Yeah. Edgett: So I don’t know. But we are, like we said earlier, trying to balance free speech with making the information you see on the system—especially around trends that we direct you to, so if you’re clicking on a hashtag, we want to make sure you’re seeing verified accounts and accurate information and reporting. Sometimes it doesn’t work as we intended. We learn from those mistakes and tweak and modulate going forward. Quigley: Beyond the correction, do you have a responsibility to flag something as “this was fake news”? Edgett: We see our users do that a lot. We’re an open, public platform with respect to journalists and other organizations who point these things out. You may have seen that on this instance, for example. Quigley: Yeah, if someone’s breaking the law, you’ve got to feel like you have a responsibility to do something about that. It’s not—as you said, this is a—with this extraordinary gift, this platform of free expression, comes the responsibility you all talked about. So, if you know something’s illegal, you know you have the responsibility to do something. At what point does this become something where you can’t just correct it; you’ve got to say to the public, this isn’t true. Edgett: Right. And we take swift action on illegal content, illegal activity, on the platform. A good example of this is the text to vote, voter suppression tweets that we’ve turned over to this committee. We saw swift action of the Twitter community on disputing those claims; and Twitter actively tweeted, once it discovered these things were on the platform, to notify our users that this was fake information, that you could not, in fact, vote by tweet, and pointing people to a tool that would allow them to find their nearest polling place. That tweet— Quigley: Is this [unclear] because that was illegal activity, or is this—if something’s just fake, do you think you have an equal responsibility? Edgett: We took that down because it was illegal voter suppression. We are actively working on, how do we balance what is real and fake, and what do we do in the aftermath of something being tweeted and re-tweeted, like you said, and had people even seen it and how do we make sure that they’re seeing other view points and other facts and other news stories. Quigley: Do you have a policy right now where if you know something’s out there that’s not true, of saying so? Edgett: We do not. We have a policy that fosters the debate on the platform. We have a policy that takes down a lot of that content because it comes from automated malicious accounts or spammers. That stuff we’re removing and acting on as quickly as we can. Quigley: And I understand how you’re trying to distinguish that, but the fact is if something’s fake, it doesn’t matter if it’s from a fake account or some bot or something. If it’s just not true and it’s wildly obvious, before it goes viral and gets picked up legitimate, you must feel like you have some responsibility. Edgett: We are—we are deeply concerned about that and figuring out ways we can do it with the right balance.

  • 1:57:39 Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA): RT, Russia Today, on your platform, has 2.2 million subscribers. Fox News, on your platform, has 740,000 subscribers. CNN has 2.3 million subscribers. The Intelligence Community assessment that was made public in January spoke about RT, and it said, “RT conducts strategic messaging for Russian government. It seeks to influence politics and fuel discontent in the United States.” So my question to you is, why have you not shut down RT on YouTube? Kent Walker: Thank you, Congresswoman. We’ve heard the concerns, and we spoke briefly about this previously. We recognize that there’re many concerned about RT’s slanted perspective. At the same time, this is an issue that goes beyond the Internet to cable, satellite television and beyond. We have carefully reviewed RT’s compliance with our policies. We’ve not found violations of our policies against hate speech and incitement to violence and the like. Speier: It’s a propaganda machine, Mr. Walker. The Intelligence Community—all 17 agencies—says it’s an arm of one of our adversaries. Walker: And we agree that— Speier: I would like for you to take that back to your executives and rethink continuing to have it on your platform. Walker: Yes. We agree that transparency’s important for all of these different sources of information. We are working on additional ways to provide that for all government-funded sources of information, including Al Jazeera and a range of government organizations.

  • 2:05:27 Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC): Is it constitutionally protected to utter an intentionally false statement? Colin Stretch: So, it depends on the context, but there is recent Supreme Court precedent on that. On Facebook— Gowdy: On which side: that it is or is not? Stretch: That it is, in most cases, protected. However, on Facebook, our job is not to decide whether content is true or false. We do recognize that false news is a real challenge. The way in which we’re addressing it is by trying to disrupt the financial incentives of those who are profiting from it, which is where most of it comes from. Most of this, most of the fake-news problem is coming from low-quality websites that are trying to drive traffic on every side of every issue, and by disrupting the financial incentives, we’re able to limit the distribution. We’re also trying to make sure that users do know when a story has been disputed by a neutral third party and alerting users to that fact— I’ll stop. I’ll stop there. Gowdy: Well, I’m smiling only because on the last break a couple of my colleagues and I were wondering who those neutral fact-checkers are, and I really do appreciate your desire to want to have a neutral fact-checker. If you could let me know who those folks are, I’d be really grateful, because people in my line of work might take exception with the neutrality of some of the fact-checkers. So, if I understand you correctly, the authenticity of the speaker is very important; the accuracy of the content, less so. Stretch: That’s how we approach it. That’s exactly right. Gowdy: All right. For the life of me, I do not understand how a republic is served by demonstrably, provably, intentionally false information. And I get it, that you don’t want to be the arbiter of opinion—I don’t want you to be, either—but today’s not Thursday, so if I say it is, I swear I don’t understand how my fellow citizens benefit from me telling them something that is demonstrably false, and I am saying it with the intent to deceive. I just—for the life of me, I don’t get it, but I’m out of time.

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism: Facebook, Google and Twitter Executives on Russian Disinformation; October 31, 2017 (Social Media)

Witnesses:

  • Colin Stretch - Facebook Vice President and General Counsel
  • Sean Edgett - Twitter Acting General Counsel
  • Richard Salgado - Google Law Enforcement & Information Security Director
  • Clint Watts - Foreign Policy Research Institute, National Security Program Senior Fellow
  • Michael Smith -New America, International Security Fellow

  • 38:25 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And I gather that all of your companies have moved beyond any notion that your job is only to provide a platform and whatever goes across it is not your affair. Colin Stretch: Senator, our commitment to addressing this problem is unwavering. We take this very seriously and are committed to investing as necessary to prevent this from happening again. Absolutely. Whitehouse: Mr. Edgett? Sean Edgett: Absolutely agree with Mr. Stretch, and this type of activity just creates not only a bad user experience but distrust for the platform, so we are committed to working every single day to get better at solving this problem. Whitehouse: Mr. Salgado? Richard Salgado: That’s the same for Google. We take this very seriously. We’ve made changes, and we will continue to get better. Whitehouse: And ultimately, you are American companies, and threats to American election security and threats to American peace and order are things that concern you greatly, correct? Stretch: That is certainly correct. Edgett: Agree. Salgado: That’s right.

  • 52:15 Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA): Mr. Salgado, why did Google get preferred status to Russia Today, a Russian propaganda arm, on YouTube? Richard Salgado: There was a period of time where Russia Today qualified really because of algorithms to participate in an advertising program that opened up some inventory for them, subjective standards around popularity and some other criteria to be able to participate in that program. Platforms or publishers like RT drop in and out of the program as things change, and that is the case with RT. They dropped out of the program. Feinstein: Well, why didn’t you revert RT’s preferred status after the ICA came out in January 2017? It took you to September of 2017 to do it. Salgado: The removal of RT from the program was actually a result of, as I understand it, is a result of some of the drop in viewership, not as a result of any action otherwise. So, there was nothing about RT or its content that meant that it stayed in or stayed out.

  • 2:03:15 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): So, Mr. Stretch, you said that there are 150 people at Facebook just focused on the content of what’s on your platform. How many people do you have, Mr. Edgett, at Twitter to concentrate on the content and ferretting out the kind of content that would be deemed unacceptable, divisive? I realize there are a lot of First Amendment— Sean Edgett: Right. Hirono: —complicated issues, but how many people do you have? Edgett: Well, we harness the power of both technology, algorithms, machine learning to help us, and also a large team of people, that we call our Trust and Safety team and our User Services team, it’s hundreds of people. We’re at a different scale than Facebook and Google, obviously, but we’re dedicating a lot of resource to make sure that we’re looking at user reports about activity on the platform that they think is violent or activity on the platform they think is illegal, and prioritizing that accordingly. Hirono: So, you have fewer people than Facebook. Facebook has 150; you said you have hundreds. Edgett: Yeah, we have hundreds— Hirono: Hundreds. Edgett: —across User Services and Trust and Safety, looking at the issues of content on the platform. Hirono: What about you, Mr. Salgado? Richard Salgado: Google has thousands of people. There’s many different products, and different teams work on them, but internally we’ll have thousands of people working on them. We also get a good deal of leads on content that we need to review for whether it’s appropriate or not that come from outside the company as well. Hirono: You have thousands of people just focused on the content— Salgado: On various types of content. Hirono: —as Mr. Stretch indicated to us that he has at Facebook? You have thousands of people dedicated? Salgado: We have thousands of people dedicated to make sure the content across our—and remember, Google has many different properties within it—but, yes, the answer is we have thousands that look at content that has been reported to us as inappropriate. Hirono: So, in view of that, Mr. Stretch, do you think 150 people is enough people? Stretch: Senator, to be clear, the 150 people I mentioned earlier is people whose full-time job is focused on addressing terrorism content on Facebook. In terms of addressing content on the site generally, we have thousands. And indeed, we have a Community Operations team that we announced earlier this year that we were going to be adding additional thousands to the several thousands that are already working on this problem every day. Hirono: I think it’s pretty clear that this is a whole new sort of use, or misuse, of your platform, and you may have various ways to address terrorist content, but this is a whole other thing.

  • 2:32:10 Clint Watts: Account anonymity in public provides some benefits to society, but social-media companies must work to immediately confirm real humans operate accounts. The negative effects of social bots far outweigh any benefits that come from the anonymous replication of accounts that broadcast high volumes of misinformation. Reasonable limits on the number of posts any account can make during an hour, day, or week should be developed and human-verification systems should be employed by all social-media companies to reduce automated broadcasting.

  • 2:33:07 Clint Watts: Lastly, I admire those social-media companies that have begun working to fact-check news articles in the wake of last year’s elections. These efforts should continue but will be completely inadequate. Stopping false information—the artillery barrage landing on social-media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced. Silence the guns, and the barrage will end. I propose the equivalent of nutrition labels for information outlets, a rating icon for news-producing outlets displayed next to their news links and social-media feeds and search engines. The icon provides users an assessment of the news outlet’s ratio of fact versus fiction and opinion versus reporting. The rating system would be opt-in. It would not infringe on freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Should not be part of the U.S. government, should sit separate from the social-media companies but be utilized by them. Users wanting to consume information from outlets with a poor rating wouldn’t be prohibited. If they are misled about the truth, they have only themselves to blame.

  • 2:44:20 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Mr. Watts, you’ve been a U.S. Army infantry officer, you’ve been an FBI special agent on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, you’ve been executive officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and you’ve been a consultant to the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and National Security Branch, so you clearly take American national security very seriously. It is, and has been, your life’s work. So, when you say, ”The Kremlin disinformation playbook,” which we’re talking about here, “will also be adopted by authoritarians, dark political campaigns, and unregulated global corporations who will use this type of social-media manipulation to influence weaker countries; harm less-educated, vulnerable populations; and mire business challengers,” you’re not just talking about the Russian election-manipulation operation getting worse and having to be contained. You’re talking about it as if it’s a technology that other bad actors can adopt and have it metastasized entirely into new fields of dissimulation, propaganda, and so forth. Clint Watts: Yes. Whitehouse: Correct? Watts: Everybody will duplicate this if they don’t believe in the rule of law, if they want to destroy democracies from the inside out. Anyone with enough resources and time and effort, if they put it against us, they can duplicate this. I could duplicate it if I chose to. Whitehouse: So, if we don’t stop it now, it’s going to get exponentially worse. Watts: Yes. And I think the one thing that we should recognize is even in the U.S. political context, if we don’t put some sort of regulation around it, if bodies like this don’t decide how we want American politics to work, everybody will be incentivized to use this same system against their political opponents, and if you don’t, you will lose.

  • 2:51:35 Sen. John Kennedy (LA): The First Amendment implications of all of this concern me as well. I mean, what’s fake news? What do you think fake news is? Clint Watts: Fake news, over the years since I’ve been involved and talking about this, is any news the other side doesn’t like, doesn’t matter what side it is. Kennedy: That’s right. Michael Smith: Senator, if I may. I’m teaching undergrads a course at Georgia State University this semester titled Media, Culture, and Society; and we’re about to start classes focused on fake news later this week. I would submit that fake news might best be defined as deliberate mis- or disinformation, which is tailored or engineered to achieve a particular outcome in the way of behaviors, to persuade perceptions in a manner that lead to behaviors such as perhaps a vote for or against somebody. Kennedy: Well, that’s a good definition, but I’ll end on this: in whose opinion? Watts: But I think there are parameters that we could come around. I mean, reporting versus opinion is a key point of it. I think also in terms of fact versus fiction, I’ve actually set up rating systems on foreign media outlets before the U.S. Government’s paid me to do that, you know, in the Iraq/Afghanistan campaigns.

House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee: FCC Oversight; October 25, 2017

Witnesses:

  • Ajit Pai: FCC Chairman

  • 14:00 Rep. Greg Walden: Ultimately, Congress is the appropriate forum to settle the net neutrality debate. I think you hear a little of that passion here on both sides. And I’ve been continuing my efforts to negotiate a compromise. Although my staff continues to engage in the various affected parties in productive discussions toward that end, my colleagues in the minority have, unfortunately, seemed largely uninterested at this point. Love to see that change, by the way. Door remains open. We’re willing and able to codify net neutrality protections and establish a federal framework in statute for providing certainty to all participants in the Internet ecosystem. I don’t think we need Title II to do that.

  • 1:31:45 Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH): Voice-activated virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are becoming an increasingly popular consumer gateway to the Internet. Some day soon they might even become consumer-preferred interface with the Internet, leaving the age of the desktop Google Search behind. You get Yelp results in Siri, OpenTable in Google, TuneIn radio from Alexa. These interactions are occurring through private partnerships among these companies to have their apps interact. However, it creates a situation where, by definition, the consumers’ access to other Internet content is limited or completely blocked. It’s the question of, who answers Siri’s question when you ask Siri something? Chairman Pai, can the FCC do anything about this? Ajit Pai: Congressman, under our current Internet regulations, we cannot. Those do not apply to edge providers.

  • 1:36:12 Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA): Will you commit to us that you’ll apply or consider applying broadcast-transparency requirements to state-sponsored media outlets like RT? And if not, why not? Ajit Pai: Congresswoman, thank you for the question. As I under— Eshoo: Uh-huh, you’re welcome. Pai: As I understand the law— Eshoo: Uh-huh, mm-hmm. Pai: —there is no jurisdictional hook at this point, no transfer of a license, for example, that allows the FCC to a certain jurisdiction. Eshoo: But what about those that have a license and carry them? Do you have—doesn’t the FCC have any say so in that, or is this, as the Intelligence Community said, that they are a principle international propaganda outlet? So are they just going to operate in the United States no matter what? Pai: Congresswoman, again, under the Communications Act and the Constitution, the First Amendment, we do not have currently a jurisdictional hook for taking and doing an investigation of that kind. If you’re privy to, obviously, classified or unclassified information that suggests that there might be another agency that has, obviously, a direct interest in the issue—and we’re, obviously, happy to work with them—but at the current time, as I’ve been advised, neither under the First Amendment nor under the Communications Act do we have the ability to— Eshoo: Well, First Amendment applies to free speech in our country. It doesn’t mean that the Kremlin can distribute propaganda in our country through our airwaves. I just—I don’t know if you’re looking hard enough.

  • 1:40:05 Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY): In 2013, and I was one of the households affected by this, there was a carriage dispute between CBS and Time Warner Cable. And CBS blocked Time Warner Cable Internet customers from viewing its shows online through a CBS.com website. So I couldn’t get any of CBS or SHOWTIME or any of that on TV. If you went to the website, because Time Warner Cable was our cable provider and Internet service provider, you couldn’t go to CBS.com—it was blocked. Or SHOWTIME to watch any of the shows that was coming out. And that was when some new ones were coming out that August, so we were trying to find that. But some members of Congress said, bring this up, and I think Chairwoman Clyburn was acting chairwoman at the time and said that she didn’t believe the agency had the jurisdiction to intervene in this situation. And Chairman Pai, do you think if it happened now, do you think the FCC would have the opportunity to intervene in a similar case? Ajit Pai: Congressman, I think the legal authorities have not changed to the extent that the FCC gets a complaint that a party is acting in bad faith in the context of retransmission dispute, then we would be able to adjudicate it. But absence to such a complaint or additional authority from Congress, we couldn’t take further action. Guthrie: But currently the Title II, open Internet, is still in effect. Is that—how would that affect it? Pai: Oh, currently, yes. Just to be clear, I should have added was well then, our Internet regulations would not apply to that kind of content to the extent you’re talking about, the blocking of online distribution of [unclear]. Guthrie: Because it only applies to the service provider, not to the content provider? Pai: That is correct, sir.

Federal Communications Commission: Open Internet Rules; February 26, 2015 (Open Internet Rules)

Witnesses:

  • Agit Pai: FCC Commissioner

  • 38:05 Ajit Pai: For 20 years, there has been a bipartisan consensus in favor of a free and open Internet. A Democratic president and Republican Congress enshrined in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 the principle that the Internet should be a vibrant and competitive free market “unfettered by federal and state regulation.” And dating back to the Clinton administration, every FCC chairman—Republican and Democrat—has let the Internet grow free from utility-style regulation. The results speak for themselves. But today the FCC abandons those policies. It reclassifies broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service. It seizes unilateral authority to regulate Internet conduct to direct where Internet service providers, or ISPs, make their investments and to determine what service plans will be available to the American public. This is not only a radical departure from the bipartisan market-oriented policies that have serviced so well over the past two decades, it is also an about-face from the proposals the FCC itself made just last May. So why is the FCC turning its back on Internet freedom? Is it because we now have evidence that the Internet is broken? No. We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only: President Obama told us to do so. Barack Obama: I’m asking the FCC to reclassify Internet service under Title II of a law known as the Telecommunications Act. Pai: On November 10, President Obama asked the FCC to implement his plan for regulating the Internet, one that favors government regulation over marketplace competition. As has been widely reported in the press, the FCC has been scrambling ever since to figure out a way to do just that. The courts will ultimately decide this order’s fate. Litigants are already lawyering up to seek a judicial review of these new rules. And given this order’s many glaring legal flaws, they’ll have plenty of fodder.

  • 40:46 Ajit Pai: This order imposes intrusive government regulations that won’t work, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, using legal authority the FCC doesn’t have. Accordingly, I dissent.

  • 1:03:15 Ajit Pai: And I’m optimistic that we will look back on today’s vote as an aberration, a temporary deviation from the bipartisan consensus that has served us so well. I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future commission, but I do believe its days are numbered.

Telecommunications Bill Signing: February 8, 1996 (Bill Signing)
  • 4:59 Vice President Al Gore: I firmly believe that the proper role of government in the development of the information superhighway is to promote and achieve at every stage of growth, at every level of operation, at every scale, the public interest values of democracy, education, and economic and social well-being for all of our citizens. If we do not see to it that every project, every network, every system addresses the public interest at the beginning, then when will it be addressed? How can we expect the final organism to express these values if they are not included in its DNA, so to speak, at the beginning? For that reason, in 1993, on behalf of the president, I presented five principles that the Clinton administration would seek in any telecommunication reform legislation: private investment, competition, universal service, open access, and flexible regulations.
Telecommunications Act Conference: December 12, 1995 (Conference)
  • 22:15 Rep. Rick Boucher: In the very near future, most homes are going to have two broadband wires that will offer the combination of telephone service and cable TV service. One of those will have started as a telephone wire; the other will have started as a cable television wire. The programming that is affiliated with the owners of those wires obviously is going to be available to consumers in the homes, but other programmers may very well be denied access. And if access to other programming is denied, consumers will be deprived of video offerings to which they should be entitled.
Telecommunications Act Conference: December 6, 1995 (Conference)
  • 27:14 Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL): No one has a right to give pornography to children. While we have not previously criminalized this area on the federal level, it’s necessary to do so now. This is because of the advent of the Internet, which enables someone in one location to instantly send or make available pornography to children in every city in America. Children don’t have the right to buy pornography in any store in America, yet some would argue there’s a right to give it to them free, delivered to their home by computer.
Telecommunications Act Conference: Telecommunications Reform Act of 1995; October 25, 1995
  • 8:58 Sen. John McCain: I believe the Senate bill in its present form is far too regulatory. Any bill that gives 80 new tasks to the Federal Communications Commission, in my view, does not meet the standard that we have set for ourselves of trying to allow everyone to compete in a deregulated—in an environment that is changing so quickly that none of us predicted five years ago that it would look like it is today. And today we have no idea what the industry will look like in five years.

  • 32:00 Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN): One thing that does please me is when I think about one of the last renaissance of electricity, electricity goes to the big cities and leaves out the rural areas, and then we have to come up with the REMCs. When we move America to the World Wide Web, though, we’re not allowing cherry-picking and to move to the great resources in the big cities, but the rural areas will be included in the World Wide Web. And so I congratulate both of you to making sure that that happens, that some of the strength of this country lies in the heart of America, and I think that’s pretty exciting.

House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance: Telecommunications Act Part 1; May 11, 1995
  • 1:25:36 Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-CO): Unlike the case for telephone service, every American household has access to at least one, and soon many more, competitive video providers today. The case simply has not yet been made that the federal government has a duty to do anything other than provide for access to alternative in the case of a purely entertainment service like the upper tier of cable. We have provided that access. We will expand that access in this bill. It is time we focus on the real issues addressed by 1555, the building of advanced broadband networks and the benefits that it will bring to all Americans.
House Energy & Commerce Committee: Cable Television Deregulation; February 2, 1994

Witnesses:

  • Bill Reddersen - Bell South Corporation Senior Vice President
  • Jeffery Chester - Center for Media Education Executive Director
  • Edward Reilly - President of McGraw-HIll Broadcasting

  • 7:27 Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): As telephone companies are able to offer cable TV service inside their telephone-service areas, they’ll have the financial incentive to deploy the broadband technology that will facilitate the simultaneous transport of voice and cable TV service and data messages, building out the infrastructure, creating the last mile of the information highway, that distance from the telephone company’s central office into the premises of the user homes and businesses throughout the nation.

  • 24:36 Bill Reddersen: It is our goal to have you pass legislation this year that enables us to deploy a second broadband network that will compete effectively with cable and bring consumers new and innovative educational healthcare information and entertainment services.

  • 25:12 Bill Reddersen: However, unless you eliminate the competitive advantages this bill confers upon cable companies, our industry will not be able to compete effectively against companies that already have a dominant, if not monopoly, position in programming markets, nor will the bill encourage telephone companies to make or continue the substantial investments required for widespread development of broadband networks. Cable companies are formidable competitors and do not need protection. Cable is a 21-billion-dollar-a-year-gross business, passing over 90% of U.S. homes. According to a recent survey, only 53 out of over 10,000 cable systems compete against a second cable operator. Cable has vertically integrated and diversified into multi-billion-dollar programming and communications businesses. Cable companies and the emerging cable telco alliances clearly do not need protection from telephone companies that currently have no video programming market share, virtually no broadband facilities to the home, and little or no operational experience in the video marketplace.

  • 37:55 Jeffrey Chester: While we share the goal of this committee that every community be served by at least two wires, there are no guarantees that this will be achieved in the near future, even with the proposed legislation. We are also troubled by the unprecedented wave of mergers and acquisitions taking place in the media industries. Serious concerns are raised by the emergence of new media giants controlling regional Bell operating companies, cable systems, TV and film studios, newspapers, broadcasting properties, and information service providers. Without federal intervention, control of the nation’s media system will be in the hands of fewer and less-accountable companies, possessing even more concentrated power.

  • 40:45 Bill Reddersen: Just as we have established private librar—public libraries—and public highways, we need to create public arenas in the electronic commons in the media landscape. A vibrant telecommunication civic sector will be an essential counterbalance to the commercial forces that will dominate the information superhighway.

  • 2:24:38 Bill Reddersen: The common carrier requirements of this legislation are essentially, if executed the way they have in the telephone industry, the second model that you articulated, and that is that if additional capacity was required and someone shows up, we build. Okay? That is the fundamental premise underlying common carrier regulation.

  • 2:30:04 Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH): Does it really matter if BellSouth builds the wire, the limitless wire, or the cable industry builds the limitless wire if indeed it is essentially a limitless technology that is open to everyone who wants to sell his or her product, including Mr. Reilly, on that particular technology? If you have the common carrier status and you have the ability to deliver your programming, is it really relevant whether BellSouth owns the wire or Mr. Angstrom owns the wire, and if it is indeed relevant, why is it relevant, Mr. Reilly? Edward Reilly: Well, it’s relevant in any instance where the company that owns the wire is also engaged in the programming business at all. If someone is prepared to build a wire and agree that they would never want to be in the programming business, and that we were given very strong safeguards— Oxley: Why is that a problem? Reilly: Well, because we end up inevitably competing with our programming— Oxley: Of course you do. Reilly: —against someone who owns both the wire and the programming content that goes on that wire. Reilly: Why is it relevant, though, if BellSouth owns the wire and you’ve got limitless access and limitless capacity, why does it make any difference that the people who supposedly own the wire are competing against you? They’re competing head to head. You are simply paying the same shelf space for your product as the owner of the product that’s providing that kind of service. Oxley: Well, we have—we believe that there is ample opportunity in that type of environment for a number of anti-competitive activities that would certainly damage our ability to try and be an equal player. Where we get positioned on the wire, what comes up when the menu first comes up, how the billing is organized—there’s a whole host of issues that go along with owning the wire and setting up the infrastructure that can create a significant competitive advantage to someone who chooses to use that for their own program service.

  • 2:38:47 Rep. Billy Tauzin (D-LA): I think the key for us here is to guarantee that there are comparable providers of services and how they get it to us, as long as it’s comparable and we have choice and all people have access to it. If we guarantee that kind of policy for America, we don’t much have to worry about the risk. Consumers take over from there as long as we guarantee, if we do have common carriage on a line, that the owner of the line can’t discriminate; can’t play games with the competitors who own that line; that you can’t play bottleneck games, as publishers are complaining about in the other bill we’re going to debate pretty soon on MMJ; that, in fact, there’s fairness on the playing field. Here’s a question for you in regard to that fairness: If the telephone companies or the utility companies can in fact do what you can’t do—produce their own programs and send them over those lines, even if we restrict them in the number of channels they can use, which I really have a problem with, as Mr. Boucher does—are we going to make sure that the same provisions of program access apply to those producers of programs that we’ve applied to the cable producers? You raised the issue in your testimony. You talked about the problems we had in cable where they own both the software and the hardware—in essence, the content and the conduit—and the problems consumers had as a result of that. Are we going to require the cable companies make 75% of their channels available to competitors? Are we going to require that the utility companies, when they build lines, fiber optic lines, are going to be similarly required to make access available to their competitors? If we’re talking about a real competitive world here, are we going to build a world where some have obligations others don’t have? Some must carry and some don’t? Some must give access to their programs to competitors, as cable is now required to do because of the bill we successfully passed over the president’s veto last year, and over cable’s objection? Are we going to make that same requirement now available—enforced upon other competitors who build wires, or who build some other systems, who decide to deliver it under some particle-beam technology we haven’t dreamed of yet, or the satellite delivery systems that are coming into play? Are we going to create some real equality in this competition, that’s going to give consumers comparable choices? That’s the key word to me—comparable choices. Are we going to do that? Or are we going to dictate the technology, confine you to so many channels, not require you to carry what others have to carry, put requirements on one competitor—the cable company can get on the telephone company’s lines, but the telephone company can’t get on the cable system’s line? Come on. It seems to me if we’re going to build policy that gets consumers real, comparable choices out there, we have to answer all those questions.

Video: What the world looks like without net neutrality

Video: Net Neutrality II: Last Week Tongight with John Oliver

Special Thanks!

To Adam Hettler for performing The Most Dangerous time of the Year!

See more of Adam here!

Background music for The Most Dangerous Time of the Year.

Cover Art

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Dec 11 2017
2 hours 38 mins
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Rank #3: CD200: How to End Legal Bribes

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The currently legal ability of obscenely rich people to bribe lawmakers and law enforcers is the source of many - if not all - of our political problems. In this episode, get an update on the few democracy-enhancing bills that have moved in this Congress and Jen speaks to Sam Fieldman - the National Counsel at Wolf-PAC - who explains how we can constitutionally end the role of money in politics by going around Congress.

Joe Briney joins Jen for the thank you's.

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Bill Outline H.R. 2722: SAFE Act

Sponsor: Zoe Lofgren of northern California 74 pages

Passed the House on June 27, 2019 225-184

  • Only GOP yes: Newbie Rep. Brian Mast - 38 year old wounded Afghanistan war veteran representing the Palm Beach area

Went to the Committee on Rules and Administration in the Senate

Title 1: Financial Support for Election Infrastructure

Subtitle A: Voting System Security Improvement Grants

Sec. 102: Paper ballot requirements

  • “The voting system shall require the use of an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot of the voters’ vote that shall be marked and made available for inspection and verification by the voter before the voter’s vote is cast and counted, which shall be counted by hand or read by an optical character recognition device or other counting device."
  • “The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any error on the paper ballot…”
  • Recounts: The paper ballot “shall constitute the official ballot and shall be preserved and used as the official ballot for purposes any recount or audit conducted with respect to any election for Federal office in which the voting system is used.”

Sec. 104: Durability and readability requirements for ballots

  • Ballots must be on “durable” paper, which means it is capable of withstanding multiple recounts by hand without compromising the fundamental integrity of the ballots” and they must maintain readability for 22 months.

Sec. 105: Recycled Paper

  • Ballots must be printed on recycled paper starting on January 1, 2021.

Sec. 107: These rules will apply “for any election for Federal office held in 2020 or any succeeding year.”

  • Grandfathered equipment: Districts using machines that print paper ballots with the votes already tallied can use those machines until 2022, but they must offer every voter the opportunity to vote using a blank paper ballot, which are not allowed to be designated as provisional.

Sec. 111:Grants for equipment changes

  • Federal tax money will be given to states to replace their voting system, if needed.
  • Grant amount: At least $1 per the average number of people who voted in the last two elections
  • To use these grants, the states can only buy voting equipment from a vendor “owned and controlled by a citizen or permanent resident of the United States”
  • The vendor must tell government officials if they get any part of their election infrastructure parts from outside the United States
  • Authorizes (but doesn’t appropriate) $600 million for 2019 and $175 million for each even number election year through 2026

Subtitle B:Risk-Limiting Audits

Sec. 121: Risk-limited audits required for all elections for Federal office

  • State election officials will make the rules for how these will be done

Sec. 122: Federal government will pay for audits

  • Authorizes “such sums as are necessary”

Title II: Promoting Cybersecurity Through Improvements in Election Administration

Sec. 201: Voting system cybersecurity requirements

  • Vote counting machine rules

    • Machines that count ballots must be built so that "it’s mechanically impossible for the device to add or change the vote selections on a printed or market ballot”
    • The device must be “capable of exporting its data (including vote tally data sets and cast vote records) in a machine-readable, open data standards format”
    • The device’s software’s source code, system build tools, and compilation parameters must be given to certain Federal and State regulators and “may be shared by any entity to whom it has been provided… with independent experts for cybersecurity analysis.”
    • The devise must have technology that allows “election officials, cybersecurity researchers, and voters to verify that the software running on the device was built from a specific, untampered version of the code” that was provided to Federal and State regulators.
    • Loophole for moles: The Director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security can waive any of the requirements other than the first one that prohibits machines that can change votes. The waivers can be applied to a device for no more than two years. The waivers must be publicly available on the Internet.
    • Not effective until November 2024 election.
  • Ballot marking machines and vote counters can’t use or “be accessible by any wireless, power-line, or concealed communication device” or “connected to the Internet or any non-local computer system via telephone or other communication network at any time.”

    • Effective for the 2020 general election and all elections after
  • Ballot marking devices can’t be capable of counting votes

    • States may submit applications to Federal regulators for testing and certification the accuracy of ballot marking machines, but they don’t have to.

Sec. 202: Testing of existing voting systems

  • 9 months before each regularly scheduled general election for Federal offices, “accredited laboratories” will test the voting system hardware and software with was certified for use in the most recent election. If the hardware and software fails the test, it “shall” be decertified.
  • Effective for the 2020 General Election.

Sec. 203: Requiring use of software and hardware for which information is disclosed by manufacturer

  • “In the operation of voting systems in an election for Federal office, a State may only use software for which the manufacturer makes the source code… publicly available online under a license that grants a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, sub-licensable license to all intellectual property rights in such source code…."
    • …except that the manufacturer may prohibit people from using the software for commercial advantage or “private monetary compensation” that is unrelated to doing legitimate research.
  • States “may not use a voting system in an election for Federal office unless the manufacture of the system publicly discloses online the identification of the hardware used to operate the system”
    • If the voting system is not widely-used, the manufacture must make the design “publicly available online under a license that grants a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, sub-licensable license to all intellectual property rights…”
  • Effective for the 2020 General election

Sec. 204: Poll books will be counted as part of voting systems for these regulations

  • Effective January 1, 2020

Title III: Use of voting machines manufactured in the United States

Sec. 301: Voting machines must be manufactured in the United States

HR 391: White House Ethics Transparency Act of 2019

Pdf of the bill

Reported June 12, 2019 out of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform 23-16

On January 28, 2017 - a week after taking office - President Trump issued an executive order that requires all executive agency appointees to sign and be contractually obligated to a pledge that…

  • The appointee won’t lobby his/her former agency for 5 years after leaving
  • Will not lobby the administration he/she previously worked for
  • Will not, after leaving government, “engage in any activity on behalf of any foreign government or foreign political party which, were it undertaken on January 20, 2017, would require me to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938”
  • Will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists
  • Will recuse themselves from any matter involving their former employers for two years from the date of their appointment
  • If the appointee was a lobbyist before entering government, that person will not work on any matter that they had lobbied for for 2 years after the appointment

BUT Section 3 allows waivers: “The President or his designee may grant to any person a waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such person.”

Sec. 2: Requires any executive branch official who gets a waiver to submit a written copy to the Director of the Office of Government Ethics and make a written copy of the waiver available to the public on the website of the agency where the appointee works.

  • Backdated to January 20, 2017 (President Trump’s inauguration)

H.R. 745: Executive Branch Comprehensive Ethics Enforcement Act of 2019

Reported March 26, 2019 out of the Committee on Oversight and Reform 18-12

Pdf of the bill

Sec. 2: Creates a transition ethics program

  • Requires the President-elect to give Congress a list of everyone in consideration for security clearance within 10 days of the applications submission and a list of everyone granted security clearance within 10 days of their approval.
  • Requires the transition team to create and enforce an “ethics plan” that needs to describe the role of registered lobbyists on the transition team, the role of people registered as foreign agents, and which transition team members of sources of income which are not known by the public
  • Transition team members must be prohibited by the ethics plan from working on matters where they have “personal financial conflicts of interest” during the transition and explain how they plan to address those conflicts of interest during the incoming administration.
  • The transition team ethics plan must be publicly avail on the website of the General Services Administration
  • Transition team members need to submit a list of all positions they have held outside the Federal Government for the previous 12 months -including paid and unpaid positions-, all sources of compensation that exceed $5,000 in the previous 12 months, and a list of policy issues worked on in their previous roles, a list of issues the team member will be recused from as part of the administration.
  • Transition team members that do not comply will not be granted any access to the Federal department or agency that isn’t open to the public.

S. 195 : Creates a transition ethics program: Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

Pdf of the bill

Reported 4/10/19 out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. On Senate Calendar

Sec. 2: Definitions

  • “Congressionally mandated report” means a report that is required to be submitted to Congress by a bill, resolution, or conference report that becomes law.
    • Does NOT include reports required from 92 nonprofit corporations labeled as “Patriotic and National Organizations” (“Title 36 corporations”)

Sec. 3: Website for reports

  • 1 year after enactment, there needs to be a website “that allows the public to obtain electronic copies of all congressionally mandated reports in one place”
  • If a Federal agency fails to submit a report, the website will tell us the information that is required by law and the date when the report was supposed to be submitted
  • The government can’t charge a fee for access to the reports
  • The reports can be redacted by the Federal agencies
Resources

 

Sound Clip Sources Watch on C-Span: House floor debate on HR 2722 June 27,2019 sound clip transcripts pdf Watch on C-Span: William Barr Testifies on Mueller Report Before Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019
  • 1:57:55 Sen. Amy Klocuchar (MN): For the last two years, Senator Lankford and I, on a bipartisan bill with support from the ranking and the head of the intelligence committee; have been trying to get the Secure Elections Act passed. This would require backup paper ballots. If anyone gets federal funding for an election, it would require audits, um, and it would require better cooperation. Yet the White House, just as we were on the verge of getting a markup in the rules committee (getting it to the floor where I think we would get the vast majority of senators), the White House made calls to stop this. Were you aware of that?
  • Attorney General William Barr: No.
  • Sen. Amy Klocuchar (MN): Okay, well that happened. So what I would like to know from you as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer if you will work with Senator Lankford and I to get this bill done? Because otherwise we are not going to have any clout to get backup paper ballots if something goes wrong in this election.
  • Attorney General William Barr: Well, I will… I will work with you, uh, to, uh, enhance the security of our election and I’ll take a look at what you’re proposing. I’m not familiar with it.
  • Sen. Amy Klocuchar (MN): Okay. Well, it is the bipartisan bill. It has Senator Burr and Senator Warner. It’s support from Senator Graham was on the bill. Senator Harris is on the bill and the leads are Senator Lankford and myself, and it had significant support in the house as well.
Hearing: Committee on Oversight and Reform:Strengthening Ethics Rules for the Executive Branch, February 6, 2019 Watch on Youtube
  • *28:00 Rep Jordan (OH): 2013 we learned that the IRS targeted conservative for their political beliefs during the 2012 election cycle systematically for a sustained period of time. They went after people for their conservative beliefs, plan in place, targeted people. They did it. The gross abuse of power would have continued, if not for the efforts of this committee. 2014 the Obama Administration doubled down and attempted to use the IRS rule making process to gut the ability of social welfare organizations to participate in public debate. Congress has so far prevented this regulation from going into effect, but HR 1 would change that.
Hearing: Judiciary Committee For The People Act Of 2019, January 29, 2019  Witness:
  • Sherrilyn Ifill - President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Watch on YouTube
  • 32:00 Sherrilyn Ifill: Well before the midterm election, in fact, Georgia officials began placing additional burdens on voters, particularly black and Latino voters, by closing precincts and purging. Over half a million people from the voter rolls the voter purge, which removed 107,000 people, simply because they did not vote in previous elections and respond to a mailing was overseen by the Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp, who was also the secretary of state. LDF and a chorus of others called on him to recuse himself from participating in the election. But he refused. 

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Jul 14 2019
2 hours 47 mins
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Rank #4: CD172: The Illegal Bombing of Syria

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On Friday the 13th of April, President Trump bombed the government of Syria… Again. In this episode, learn some of the little-discussed history of and reasons for the on-going attempts to overthrow the government of Syria.

Please Support Congressional Dish

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Hearing: US Policy Toward Middle East; House Foreign Affairs Committee; April 18, 2018.

Witnesses: -David Satterfield - Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State - Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs - Wess Mitchell - Assistant Secretary of State of European and Eurasian Affairs

  • 15:25 David Satterfield: While preventing the use of chemical weapons in Syria is our immediate concern, the administration’s priority remains the defeat of ISIS. ISIS has lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, but the fight in Syria still has to be pursued to its conclusion. More broadly, the United States supports a unified and territorially whole Syria. This objective is served by U.S. support for the UN-led Geneva political process, established by UN Security Council Resolution 2254, in which process the U.S. believes strongly that representatives of all Syrians, including all its Kurdish components, should fully participate.
  • 16:30 David Satterfield: The Iraqi government is stabilizing communities, including minority communities that suffered greatly from ISIS, and now we’re beginning private-sector-led, investment-driven reconstruction.
  • 34:15 Representative Eliot Engel (NY): To me, ISIS is one prong of something, an important prong, but one prong of what we should be doing. I really think to rid Syria of the butcher Assad ought to be as important as our ISIS concerns. David Satterfield: I strongly agree with you that a Syria in which Assad remains as leader of this regime is not a Syria which we would predict to be meaningfully secure or stable, or not a source of generation of threat and violent extremism under whatever name in the future, and it’s why we have strongly supported a political process led by the UN. Unfortunately, that political process has been blocked, and the parties responsible for blocking it are quite clear: it’s the Syrian regime itself and the Russians, who through their absence of pressure on the regime in Damascus contributes to, enables this freezing of a Geneva process which, virtually, the entire international community supports. Engel: And through the veto in the United Nations. Satterfield: Exactly, sir.
  • 1:02:20 Representative Dana Rohrabacher: What is our purpose in Syria? Will we accept anything less than—would we accept a compromise that would keep Assad in power, at least in part of Syria, or is our goal and our purpose only to totally eliminate the Assad government? David Satterfield: Mr. Rohrabacher, our purpose of our forces in Syria, as Secretary Mattis, Chairman Dunford have stated repeatedly, is to defeat ISIS. The purpose of our diplomacy, of our international engagement, with respect to Syria, is to support a political process, which at its end has a revised constitution, elections conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. And our belief is that those elections, if freely and fairly conducted amongst all Syrians, including the émigré Syrian communities, would not produce the survival of the Assad regime. Rohrabacher: Okay, let me just note, what you described wasn’t just Syria, but probably three-quarters of the countries of the Middle East. And if we made those demands of—why is it that Syria, we have to make those demands against Syria and not against all these other countries in the Middle East? Satterfield: Because, sir, of the extraordinary depredations of this regime in this country against its citizens, because of the extraordinary and historically unprecedented, in modern times, outflow of— Rohrabacher: You don’t think the rest of the countries in the Middle East have similar track records? You’re trying to tell me that—well, we heard the same thing, of course, about Saddam Hussein, we heard the same thing about Gaddafi, and we ended up creating total chaos—total chaos—in that part of the world. Satterfield: No regime in modern history in the Middle East, including Saddam Hussein’s— Rohrabacher: Yes. Satterfield: —has killed as many of its own citizens, has produced external and internal displacement of its own citizens on the scale of the Assad regime. No. It’s unique, sadly. Rohrabacher: Well, let me just say, Mr. Ambassador, you read history differently than I do. That is an area that is filled with dictators, it’s filled with authoritarian regimes, filled with our allies, that if people rose up against them as they’re rising up against Assad—he’s a bad guy, he’s a dictator, he’s everything you said, but he’s not that different from these other regimes once they are challenged. Once they were challenged, don’t tell me the Qatar government wouldn’t mow down all of their guest workers if there was an uprising in Qatar, and vice versa with these other regimes. I’m very disturbed by the fact that we’re sliding into a war and not having an out that will not lead us to major military commitments to that region. That would be a disaster, and I think it’s based on the analysis that you just said: that Assad is somewhat different than everybody else. I don’t think so.
News: Rand Paul Says Syrian Gas Attack was False Flag, or Assad is Dumbest Dictator on the Planet; CNN News; April 17, 2018. Meeting: U.N. Security Council on Airstrikes in Syria; U.N. Security Council; April 14, 2018. Testimony: Secretary Mattis and General Dunford on 2019 Budget Request; House Armed Services Committee; April 12, 2018.

Witnesses: - James Mattis - Secretary of Defense - General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. - Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • 41:42 Secretary of Defense James Mattis: On Syria, sir, both the last administration and this one made very clear that our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS. We are not going to engage in the civil war itself. Now, you can look back to a year ago when we did fire missiles into Syria, unrelated to ISIS, and that was, of course, the use of chemical weapons. And some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale, and in the worst interest of not just the Chemical Weapons Convention but of civilization itself.
  • 42:48 Secretary of Defense James Mattis: And the only reason Assad is still in power is because of the Russians’ regrettable vetoes in the UN, and the Russian and Iranian military. So, how do we deal with this very complex situation? First of all, we are committed to ending that war though the Geneva process, the UN orchestrated effort. It has been unfulfilled because, again, Russia has continually blocked the efforts.
  • 50:10 Representative Niki Tsongas (MA): So as you’re considering possible steps forward—military actions you might take— what do you hope to achieve by any military action that the administration might eventually decide to take? Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Congresswoman, I don’t want to get, as you’ll understand, into the details of a potential decision by the commander in chief, due to this latest attack, which is absolutely inexcusable. There have been a number of these attacks. In many cases, you know we don’t have troops. We’re not engaged on the ground there, so I cannot tell you that we had evidence, even though we certainly had a lot of media and social-media indicators that either chlorine or sarin were used. As far as our current situation, if, like last time, we decide we have to take military action in regard to this chemical weapons attack, then, like last time, we will be reporting to Congress just as we did when we fired a little over a year ago, slightly over a year ago. As far as the counter violent extremists, counter ISIS— Tsongas: So, let me go back to this. So, before taking any action, you would report to Congress as to the nature of what that action might be. Mattis: I will speak only to the fact that we will report to Congress. We’ll keep open lines of communication. There will be notification to the leadership, of course, prior to the attack. But we’ll give a full report to the Congress itself, probably as rapidly as possible.
  • 54:05 Secretary of Defense James Mattis: I believe there was a chemical attack, and we’re looking for the actual evidence. The OPCW—this is the organization for the Chemical Weapons Convention—we’re trying to get those inspectors in, probably within the week.
  • 1:00:42 Representative Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. Secretary, a Military Times article this week revealed that the Defense Manpower Data Center failed to report the number of combat troops deployed in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan last quarter. That website was also stripped of deployment data from previous quarters. I’m very concerned about that. I think that there’s no combat advantage to obfuscating the number of U.S. service members that were in these countries three months ago, and, furthermore, the American public has a right to know. Do you intend to restore that information to the website? Secretary of Defense James Mattis: I’ll look at it, Congresswoman. As you know, we keep the Congress fully informed, right down to every week. We can update you on exactly the numbers in each case, and we do maintain some degree of confidentiality over the number of troops engaged against enemies in the field. So, I’ll have to look at it. But we will not, of course, ever keep those numbers away from members of Congress, for your oversight. Speier: Well, I know, but this has been an ongoing website that’s provided this information to the public, and all of a sudden, the last quarter, it’s not posted, and they’ve sweeped away all the data for previous quarters. So, it would suggest to, I think, the public and to members of this Congress that you are no longer going to make that information available, and I think the public has a right to know. Mattis: I see. When I come in, ma’am, I don’t come in intending to hide things, but I would just ask, what would you do if you thought the enemy could take advantage of that kind of data, seeing trends at certain times of the year and what they can expect in the future? But I’ll certainly look at it. I share your conviction that the American people should know everything that doesn’t give the enemy an advantage. Speier: Thank you. I yield back.
  • 1:18:09 Representative John Garamendi (CA): What is the legal authority—the precise legal authority—of the United States government to engage in military action in response to the chemical weapons use by the Assad regime? Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Right. I believe that authority’s under Article II. We have forces in the field, as you know, in Syria, and the use of chemical weapons in Syria is not something that we should assume that, well, because you didn’t use them on us this time, you wouldn’t use them on us next time.
  • 1:28:35 Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI): You know, the president has indicated recently his intention to launch U.S. military attacks against Syria. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has not done so against the Syrian government. Section 3 of the War Powers Resolution requires the president to consult with Congress before introducing U.S. armed forces into situations of hostilities. Section 2 of the War Powers Resolution clarifies the constitutional powers of the president as commander in chief. In Article II, which you referenced, Secretary Mattis, to introduce forces into hostilities only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by an attack upon the U.S., its territories, possessions, or armed forces. Syria’s not declared war against the U.S. or threatened the U.S. The launch of 59 missiles against Syria by Trump last year was illegal and did not meet any of those criteria in the War Powers Resolution. The consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which was signed into law by President Trump, states that none of the funds made available by this Act may be used with respect to Syria in contravention of the War Powers Resolution, including for the introduction of U.S. armed military forces into hostilities in Syria. My question is, will the president uphold the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, and comply with the law that he signed by obtaining authorization from Congress before launching U.S. military attacks against Syria? Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Congresswoman, we have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria. I think that when you look back at President Obama sending the U.S. troops into Syria at the time he did, he also had to deal with this type of situation, because we were going after a named terrorist group that was not actually named in the AUMF that put them in. This is a complex area, I’ll be the first to admit. Gabbard: It is simple, however, what the Constitution requires. So while you’re correct in saying the president has not yet made a decision, my question is, will he abide by the Constitution and comply with the law? Mattis: Yeah. I believe that the president will carry out his duties under the Constitution to protect the country.
Interview: John Kerry - We Got All of the Chemical Weapons Out of Syria; CNN; April 9, 2018. Interview: John Kerry on Getting Chemical Weapons out of Syria, 2014; Meet the Press; April 9, 2018. Testimony: US Policy in Syria After ISIS; Senate Foreign Relations Committee; January 11, 2018.

Witnesses: - David Satterfield - Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

  • 13:45 David Satterfield: A stable Syria absolutely requires the departure of President Assad and his regime. They’ve inflicted suffering and countless deaths on the Syrian people, including use of chemical weapons. This regime is a magnet for terror. It is incapable of democratically leading the whole of Syria. We, our allies, have come to Russia with a path towards the Syrian political transition, towards a political solution, on many occasions, and we call on Russia again today to pressure the regime to work seriously towards a political resolution to this conflict.
  • 14:37 Sen. Bob Corker (TN): We are now not demanding that Assad leave. Instead, as I understand it, we’re embracing the UN resolution as Putin has recently done. Is that correct? David Satterfield: That’s correct, Mr. Chairman. Corker: And that would mean that there would then be an election that would take place. Satterfield: There would be a constitutional reform and revision process, and then there would be an electoral process. That electoral process would be fully under UN monitoring and supervision. Corker: And is it true that—it’s my sense that people like you and others believe that if that process occurs as has been laid out and as supported right now by Russia, do you believe that the way Assad would go through a democratic election where he would lose? Satterfield: Mr. Chairman, we cannot conceive of a circumstance which a genuinely fair electoral process overseen by the UN, with participation of a Syrian displaced community, could lead to a result in which Assad remained at the helm.
  • 21:20 David Satterfield: First step was the defeat of ISIS. As long as ISIS remained a potent fighting force in Syria, the bandwidth, the space to deal with these broader strategic challenges, including Iran and, of course, Assad and the regime, simply wasn’t there. But that bandwidth is being freed up now. With the UN process, with international support for a credible electoral and constitutional reform process, we see political transition in Syria as a potentially achievable goal. We don’t underestimate the challenges ahead. It’s going to be hard—very hard—to do. Assad will cling to power at almost every cost possible. But with respect to Iran, we will treat Iran in Syria and Iran’s enablement of Hezbollah as a separate strategic issue. How do you deal with it? You deal with it in all places that it manifests itself, which is not just Syria, but Iraq, Yemen, the Gulf, other areas where Iran’s maligned behaviors affect our and our allies’ national interests. Difficult challenge, but not impossible challenge, and it is one we are seized with right now, but having a politically transformed Syria will, in and of itself, be a mitigating and minimizing factor on Iran’s influence, and the opposite is also true.
  • Satterfield: We are working on stabilization in the north and the northeast right now very successfully and with a minimum of U.S. physical presence. About 2,000 U.S. military and seven, soon to be 10, foreign service colleagues. This is a highly efficient operation, and it’s working on the ground. But those are only the first steps. The 2254 political process, the process that the entire international community of like-minded states has signed on to, is the key. It’s the key to addressing Assad and his departure; it is the key to resolving the question of foreign forces and Iranian influence. And what are our levers, what are our tools to move that forward? They are denial of legitimacy and authenticity to any claim of victory by the regime or its supporters in Moscow or Tehran, and the withholding of reconstruction funds, which are vital to the regime and we think Moscow’s interests over the long term. Those are potent levers.
  • 48:58 Sen. Bob Corker: As I understand, the troops that are there, they’re not involved in combat. Is that correct? David Satterfield: Senator, there are still combat activities going on in the middle Euphrates valley. The campaign against the so-called Caliphate, that is, the territorially structured presence of ISIS, is not over yet. That campaign continues. The level of fighting has significantly diminished since the days of urban conflict in Mayadeen, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor. But the fight goes on, and there is combat activity. Corker: But, most of their efforts are in support of those that are actually on the front lines. Satterfield: They are in facilitation of the SDF efforts, who have consistently carried this fight since the beginning.
  • 49:47 Sen. Ron Johnson (OH): Reconstructing Syria’s going to cost somewhere in the order of 200 to 300 billion dollars. Is that…? David Satterfield: That’s a general international estimate, sir. Johnson: So, who has that kind of money? Satterfield: I can tell you who doesn’t: the Syrian regime, Moscow, and Tehran. Who does? The international community companies, international financial institutions. They’ve got the money collectively, but that money is not going to flow into a Syria which has not gone through a political transformation and transition.
Hearing: Authorization for Use of Military Force; Senate Foreign Relations Committee; October 30, 2017.
  • 2:55:15 Sen. Rob Portman (OH): Do you think there can be a lasting peace there as long as Assad is in power, and does the current AUMF give you the ability, General Mattis, to be able to deal with that issue if you think that has to be resolved? That might be one example. Rex Tillerson: Well, the current AUMF only authorizes our fight against ISIS in Syria, as I indicated in my remarks. We’re not there to fight the regime. There is no authority beyond the fight against ISIS. Therefore, we have to pursue a future Syria that’s kept whole and intact, and a process, which the UN Security Council process does provide a process by which, in our view, the Assad regime will step down from power.
Breaking News: Brian Williams is Guided by the Beauty of Our Weapons in Syria Strikes; MSNBC; April 13, 2017. Breaking News: Zakaria: Trump Just Became President; CNN; April 7, 2017. Report: Hillary Clinton Discussed Rigging the Election in Leaked Audio; The Young Turks; November 1, 2016. Interview: Gen. Wesley Clark - 7 Countries in 5 Years; Democracy Now!; August 6, 2016. Hearing: U.S. Policy and Russian Involvement in Syria; House Foreign Affairs Committee; November 4, 2015.

Witnesses: - Anne Patterson - Assistant Secretary of State - Victoria Nuland - Assistant Secretary of State

Statement: Situation in Syria; Secretary of State Clinton calls on Assad to resign Interview: 100% Syria Have No Chemical Weapon, John Kerry; Charlie Rose; March 10, 2014. Debate: British House of Commons Debate on Syria; House of Commons; August 29, 2013. Press Briefing: US President Barack Obama in 'red line' warning to Syria over Chemical Weapons; Telegraph; August 21, 2012. Testimony: US Policy Toward Syria; House International Relations Committee; September 16, 2003. Speech: Democracy in Iraq; George Bush; February 26, 2003.

Witnesses: - John Bolton - then Undersecretary at the Department of State for Arms Control, current National Security Advisor

  • 53:12 Former Representative Gary Ackerman (NY): Are we talking about regime change in Syria if they do not voluntarily rid themselves of whatever it is we’re saying they have or do that threatens our national security? John Bolton: Mr. Ackerman, as the president has made clear and as we are directed, our preference is to solve these problems by peaceful and diplomatic means. But the president has also been very clear that we’re not taking any options off the table.
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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Apr 30 2018
2 hours 33 mins
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Rank #5: Special Announcement

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In this special announcement, Jen explains a temporary schedule change to the Congressional Dish community, designed to facilitate a renewed focus on increasing the quality of future episodes and the creation of the CD green room. Also, Jen shares an exciting announcement about an upcoming appearance on her favorite channel!

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Jul 29 2019
12 mins
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Rank #6: CD171: 2,232 Pages

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In a special crossover episode of The David Pakman Show on YouTube, hear the infuriating story of how the 2,232 page “omnibus” government funding bill became law , discover a provision snuck into law that further erodes privacy rights, learn why only some stoners and legit medical marijuana patients are protected by the omnibus, and hear about some strange provisions that appear to give free reign to the intelligence agencies for the next six months.

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  • Mail Contributions to: 5753 Hwy 85 North #4576 Crestview, FL 32536

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Recommended Listening Additional Reading Bill Outline H.R. 1625: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

DIVISION B - Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Explanatory Statement

Sec. 521: Money appropriated by this Act for intelligence activities are "deemed to be specifically authorized by Congress "during fiscal year 2018 until the enactment of the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018".

Sec. 537: "None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

DIVISION C - Department of Defense

Sec. 8018: Prohibits the Department of Defense from disposing of M-1 Carbine rifles, M-1 Garand rifles, M-14 rifles, .22 caliber rifles, .30 caliber rifles, or M-1911 pistols or to destroy ammunition that is allowed to be commercially sold.

Sec. 8071: Over $705 million will be spent on missile defense for Israel, with requirements that $420 million of that be shared with U.S. war equipment manufacturers, including at least $120 million to be shared with Boeing for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier system.

Sec. 8073: Money appropriated by this Act for intelligence activities are "deemed to be specifically authorized by the Congress" during fiscal year 2018 until the enactment of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.

Sec. 8107: Allows local military commanders - if the Defense Secretary creates regulations allowing it - to provide payments to people for damage, injuries, and deaths caused by the Armed Forces.

Sec. 8115:: Prohibits the Defense Department from initiating or expanding support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals without informing Congress 15 days in advance, but the Defense Secretary can waive this and tell Congress within 72 hours.

Sec. 8119: Military and civilian employees of the Defense Department can't use their Government Travel Charge Card on gambling or strippers.

AFGHANISTAN SECURITY FORCES FUND - $4.666 billion will be provided to the "security forces of Afghanistan, including the provision of equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation, construction, and funding."

COUNTER-ISIS TRAIN AND EQUIP FUND - $1.769 billion will be provided for "assistance, including training; equipment; logistics support, supplies, and services; stipends; infrastructure repair and renovation; and sustainment, to foreign security forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and their affiliated or associated groups" - The money can also be used to "enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas including Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia."

Sec. 9007: Prohibits the US Government from creating any permanent military bases in Iraq or Afghanistan or from exercising "United States control over any oil resource of Iraq."

Sec. 9011: Allows $500 million to be given to Jordan "to support the armed forces of Jordan and to enhance security along its borders."

Sec. 9013: Provides $200 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to "provide assistance , including training; equipment; lethal weapons of a defensive nature; logistics support, supplies and services; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and for replacement of any weapons or defensive articles provided to the Government of Ukraine from the inventory of the United States"

Sec. 9022: Allows the money in the Afghanistan Security Forces fund to be used to provide training, equipment, and "other assistance" that is legally prohibited because the "Secretary of Defense has credible information that he unit has committed a gross violation of human rights." . This is allowed as long as the Defense Secretary notifies Congress within 30 days.

Defense Explanatory Statement

DIVISION D - Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies

Sec. 108: Prohibits permits from being required for the release of dredged or mill material from farming, ranching, construction and maintenance of dikes, dams, levees, and "transportation structures", construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches, construction of farm roads or forest roads, or for temporary roads for moving mining equipment.

Sec. 302:: Money appropriated for intelligence "by this or any other Act" are "deemed to be specifically authorized by the Congress" for "intelligence or intelligence-related activity>

Apr 14 2018
2 hours
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Rank #7: CD073: Amtrak

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In this bonus episode, we look into the state of passenger rail service in the United States by examining the history and current condition of Amtrak, the only choice for passenger rail service in the nation.

The United States has a third world passenger rail transportation system. There's no denying it. There is only one company, Amtrak, that operates nationwide. Amtrak train cars are decades old, the employees are over-worked, and it's incredibly unreliable. But why is that the case? How can we do better? Passenger rail service is a worthy investment for the United States government. Trains consume far less energy than our other available modes of transportation: Passenger trains consume 17% less energy than airplanes and 21% less energy than cars. Passenger trains also burn far less carbon dioxide: The average intercity passenger train burns 50% less carbon dioxide per passenger mile than an airplane and 60% less than cars. Rail transportation is also a safe mode of transportation, especially when compared to cars; automobile accidents kill an average of 33,000 Americans every year compared to an average of ten deaths caused by accidents on passenger trains. [caption id="attachment_1443" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Automobiles kill 33,000 in the US every year. Trains kill 10.[/caption] But if passenger trains are such a good investment, why is the United States system so behind other countries? It wasn't always this way. In the 1920’s, more than 1,000 companies operated on a network of 380,000 miles of track in the United States. 1.27 billion passengers traveled on the United States' rail network every year, at a time when our population was much less than it is today. However, in the 1970’s, after the interstate highway system was completed and air travel became affordable for the middle class, the private railroads didn’t find passenger trains to be as profitable as freight and they wanted to eliminate passenger services entirely. The government agreed to take over the passenger service that the private sector didn’t want to provide for their own financial reasons. Amtrak was created in 1971 as a quasi public-private entity to provide public rail transportation service nationwide. Amtrak was a compromise between the members of Congress who wanted to keep a passenger rail system in the United States and the Nixon administration, who wanted passenger rail to disappear. In the deal that created Amtrak, the private railroad companies would no longer have to provide passenger services but they would have to provide Amtrak with start-up cash and equipment. The private railroads would maintain ownership of the infrastructure - the railraod tracks - but they would not be allowed to deny Amtrak the right to use them. The only place in the United States where the private railroad companies do not own the infrastructure is in the Northeast Corridor, between Boston and Washington D.C., which just so happens to be the area of the country with the best and most reliable passenger rail service in the country. However, Amtrak is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure; as a result, about 75% of Amtrak's budget goes towards maintaining the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak was given two mandates. The first was to provide a nationwide passenger rail service. The second was to turn a profit. While turning a profit is a worthy goal, no passenger rail service in the world is currently profitable even in countries where the passenger train company is not responsible for maintaining the rail infrastructure. The situation got worse for Amtrak in the 1980's due to the Staggers Act, which deregulated the railroad industry. As a result, railroad companies gobbled each other up in mergers and ripped out even more tracks. Since the 1960’s, almost half of the countries’ rail infrastructure has been abandoned or removed. Today, the vast majority of the country’s remaining railroad tracks are controlled by only four companies: BNSF, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific. Bills Discussed in This Episode Amtrak has been starved of funding since it’s creation, a problem that continues today. Amtrak needs about $5 billion just to maintain old bridges, tunnels, and walls in the Northeast Corridor, the only section of the country where Amtrak owns the tracks it runs on. H.R. 4745, the transportation funding bill for fiscal year 2015 which passed the House of Representatives on June 10, would not authorize that money, nor much else for operations in other parts of the country. H.R. 4745: The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2015

  • Provides over $15 billion in Federal subsidies for the aviation industry.
  • Provides over $40 billion in Federal subsidies for the highway trust fund.
  • Provides $1.2 billion in Federal subsidies for Amtrak. Amtrak is also authorized to borrow $5.6 billion.

In addition, H.R. 4745 contains some outright fiscal attacks on Amtrak's ability to function.

  • An amendment submitted by Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia defunds food and beverage service on Amtrak trains.
  • An amendment submitted by Rep. Jeff Denham of California defunds California's high speed rail project.
  • An amendment submitted by Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas eliminates the Sunset Limited, the only Amtrak route that runs between Los Angeles and New Orleans.

There is hope, however. H.R. 4745 needs to be merged with the Senate version. There is still time to remove the Amtrak attacks. More importantly, the multi-year transportation bill known as MAP-21 is set to expire on September 30, 2014, right before the 2014 midterm elections. If we want passenger rail service investments in the United States, now is the perfect time to demand them. Representatives Quoted in This Episode (In Order of Appearance)

Sources of Information for the Episode Music Presented in This Episode Slow Train by Bradley West (found on Music Alley by mevio) Intro and Exit Music: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio) New Podcast You Might Enjoy Critical Thinking is Required, hosted by James Sirois

Jun 24 2014
52 mins
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Rank #8: CD088: What is the 114th Congress?

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In this bonus episode, a quick overview of Congressional basics. We also examine the priorities of the 114th Congress by reviewing the bills that were passed during its first week.

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114th Rules of the House

The 114th Congress passed the new rules, which amended the rules passed by the 113th Congress.

Bills Passed in the First Week House of Representatives HR 26: Terrorism Risk Insurance Program ReAuthorization Act of 2015 HR 22: The Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 HR 30: Save American Workers Act of 2015 HR 3: Keystone XL Pipeline Act Defeated... For Now HR 37: Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act Music Presented in This Episode Be Heard

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Jan 10 2015
26 mins
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Rank #9: CD114: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Investment Chapter

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership is finished and will be eligible for a vote in Congress in February 2016. In December, the Democrats held a hearing on the Investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this episode, highlights from that hearing and a summary of the provisions in one of the TPP's most important chapters.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Text Hearing Highlighted in this Episode

TPP Issue Analysis - Investment Chapter, House Ways and Means Committee (Democrats), December 2, 2015.

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Witnesses Investment Chapter Highlights
  • Article 9.4: Countries can't treat companies from other countries any differently than they treat companies from their own

  • Article 9.6: Countries must provide police protection to foreign companies

  • Article 9.6: Removal of subsidies does not count as a violation of the treaty, even if the company is financially harmed

  • Article 9.7: Countries can nationalize their assets if they pay the companies with interest

  • Article 9.9: Countries can not require companies to use domestic goods or to buy products from within the country ("Buy American")

  • Section B: Conflicts between multinational companies and TPP countries will be settled through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system

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Jan 10 2016
1 hour 3 mins
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Rank #10: CD124: The Costs of For-Profit War

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Two defense contractors went on a podcast and everything they said was true. In this episode, discover the shocking extent to which our government has privatized wartime operations.

 

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2016 Podcast Awards

Please Nominate Congressional Dish by April 30, 2016

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Apr 24 2016
1 hour 45 mins
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Rank #11: CD176: Target Venezuela: Regime Change in Progress

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Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is a country that has been experimenting with a new so-called “socialist” economic model for twenty years. For this sin, two consecutive Venezuelan Presidents have been targeted for regime change by the architects of the “free market” World Trade System, an economic system they intend to be global. In this episode, learn the recent history of Venezuela and hear the highlights of a March 2017 Congressional hearing (which was not aired on television in the United States) during which strategies for a Venezuelan regime change were discussed, and then learn about the regime change steps that have been taken since that hearing which have unfolded exactly how the witnesses advised. Pat Grogan joins Jen for Thank Yous. 

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Additional Reading Resources Visual References Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Democracy Promotion in a Challenging World, House Foreign Affairs Committee, June 14, 2018. Video: Debunking John Oliver on Venezuela, The Real News Network, June 9, 2018. Hearing: Advancing US Business Investment and Trade in the Americas, House Foreign Affairs Committee, June 7, 2018. Video: Pompeo calls for kicking Venezuela out of OAS and more sanctions, The Washington Post, June 4, 2018.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “In addition to suspension, I call on member states to apply additional pressure on the Maduro regime with financial sanctions and diplomatic isolation until such time as it takes the actions necessary to return genuine democracy and provide people desperately needed access to international humanitarian aid"
Hearing: Advancing U.S. Interests Through the Organization of American States, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, February 14, 2018. Hearing: The Venezuela Crisis: The Malicious Influence of State and Criminal Actors, House Foreign Affairs Committee, September 13, 2017. Empire Files: Constituent Assembly Dictatorship or Democracy in Venezuela? TeleSUR English, July 19, 2017. Hearing:The Collapse of The Rule of Law in Venezuela: What the United States and the International Community Can Do to Restore Democracy, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee, July 19, 2017.
  • 07:15 Senator Marco Rubio: I also know this, and I do not speak for the president, but I’ve certainly spoken to the president, and I will only reiterate what he has already said, and I’ve been saying this now for a number of days: it is my—I have 100% confidence that if democracy is destroyed once and for all in Venezuela on the 30th in terms of the Maduro regime, the president of the U.S. is prepared to act unilaterally in a significant and swift way. And that is not a threat; that is the reporting of the truth.

  • 10:38 Senator Bob Menendez: Even as their president prevents international support for the basic humanitarian needs of its citizens—blocking an effort by the National Assembly to facilitate international systems—they are voting to demand fundamental freedoms. Despite the suffering of his people, and the international outcry, Maduro insists on clinging onto the shreds of a failed ideology his predecessor and a few colleagues in the region still champion.

Empire Files: Abby Martin Meets the Venezuelan Opposition, TeleSUR English, July 3, 2017. Empire Files: Venezuela Economy Minister-Sabotage, Not Socialism, is the Problem, TeleSUR English, June 17, 2017. Hearing: Venezuela's Tragic Meltdown, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, March 28, 2017. Hearing: Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 2, 2017.
  • 21:30 Shannon O’Neil: The United States can and should also delve into Venezuela’s recent financial transactions, and specifically, its use of U.S.-based Citgo assets to collateralize its loans. CFIUS should investigate bond purchases by the Russian state-controlled oil company, Rosneft, who may, in the case of default, actually gain majority control of this critical refinery infrastructure here in the United States.

  • 21:53 Shannon O’Neil: Multilateral initiatives are perhaps more important and potentially more fruitful as a means to influence Venezuela. This will mean working behind the scenes to galvanize opposition and condemnation for the Maduro regime. This’ll be more effective than U.S. efforts alone as it will be much harder for the Venezuelan government to dismiss the criticisms and the actions of its South American neighbors as imperialist overreach. And such a coalition is much more possible today than in any time in the recent past, due both to the accelerating repression and the breaking of the last democratic norms in Venezuela, and due to the very different stances of South America’s recently elected leaders, particularly in Peru, in Brazil, and in Argentina. The OAS remains a venue and an instrument to focus these efforts. The U.S. should call on the organization to again invoke the Inter-American Charter to evaluate Venezuela’s democratic credentials and its compliance with them, and this could lead, potentially to sanctions and suspension of Venezuela from this multilateral body.

  • 23:00 Shannon O’Neil: And then, finally, the United States should begin preparing for change. If the Maduro regime is forced out or it collapses, the country will likely face humanitarian, economic, and financial chaos. And there’re two particular things the United States can start preparing for. The first is a wave of refugees. This will hit Venezuela’s neighbors the hardest—Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, nearby Caribbean nations. It’s important to help them with money, with supplies, potentially with personnel, and to back international NGOs in multilateral efforts to ease the suffering of these people. The second aspect to prepare for is a restructuring of Venezuela’s finances and its economy. A new government will need to renegotiate 140 billion dollars’ worth of external debt, whether or not the government has already defaulted upon it or not. And this massive undertaking will likely require an IMF rescue package and the baking of the international community and creditors. The U.S. will be vital in facilitating this as well as in helping a new government take the tough economic policy choices to turn the economy around. These will include, freeing the exchange rate, reinducing market prices, creating sustainable policies for the poor, and rooting out corruption. And thought this is complicated, the faster it occurs, the faster Venezuela’s economy will grow again.

  • 25:30 Senator Ben Cardin: We look at ways in which we can change the direction here, and it starts with the governance. When you have a corrupt government, it’s going to be very difficult to see international organizations willing to come in to help refinance their economy. Even though they have wealth, it’s going to be difficult to figure out how that takes place unless they have basic changes in the way their government’s doing business. And we don’t see any indication that that’s taking place. So, you’ve made a couple suggestions. One is we need to work with our regional partners, which I fully agree. So let’s start with OAS, which is the entire region, as to whether it’s realistic that the Democratic Charter provisions can in fact lead to change in Venezuela. Ultimately, it will require us to have the threat of at least two-thirds of the countries if we’re going to be able to invoke the Charter with some teeth. What is the likelihood that OAS could be effective as a real force in bringing about change by the Maduro government? Mr. Feierstein? Mark Feierstein: Well, thank you very much for that question, and actually, if I can hit on your two other points as well; first, with regard to humanitarian assistance. Under the Obama administration, the USAID in fact did put together a contingency plan to provide assistance if in fact, even when, the Venezuelan government is willing to receive it, and USAID has a warehouse in Miami that’s prepared to provide assistance. I know international organizations are prepared as well. There has been some dialog between the government and the Inter-American Development Bank with regard to economic reform, though, frankly at fairly lower levels, and there’s no indication at senior levels that they’re inclined at serious attempts at economic reform. With regard to the OAS, I think that we’re much better positioned now than we were a couple years ago, and that’s because of some changes in some key governments in the region—Argentina; Peru; Brazil; there was a reference to Ecuador, a potential change there as well. And I think that patience has clearly run out with Maduro. I think countries are more inclined now to take action. There has been hesitation to do so as long as the dialog was alive and long as the Vatican was engaged. One of the challenges has been with regard to the Caribbean countries, which receive significant petroleum assistance from Venezuela, and that has somewhat silenced them, and there’s been some divisions within the Caribbean. That said, I’m hopeful that in the coming months that as the situation deteriorates in Venezuela, and as that it becomes clear that the dialog cannot be successful unless there is more pressure. And I think there needs to be three forms of pressure: There needs to be domestic mobilization within Venezuela, in the form of protests. I think there needs to be additional sanctions applied by the United States to other countries. And I think there needs to be action within the OAS, including a threat of suspension of Venezuela from the organization if it does not comply with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

  • 41:50 Senator Bob Menendez: Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and its subsidiary, Citgo, which has energy infrastructure in the United States, are under extreme financial pressure and may not be able to pay their bills in the near future. Under a recent deal, 49.9% of Citgo was mortgaged to Rosneft, the Russian government-owned oil company run by Vladimir Putin’s crony Igor Sechin. It’s also possible that Rosneft acquired other PDVSA bonds on the open market that could bring their ownership potential to over 50%. If Citgo defaults on its debts, Rosneft, an entity currently under American sanctions because of Russia’s belligerent behavior, could come to own a majority stake in strategic U.S. energy infrastructure, including three refineries and several pipelines. Given the close ties between Rosneft and Putin, Putin’s interest in undermining the United States, and Putin’s willingness to use energy as a weapon, does this potential deal concern you should a sanctioned Russian company have control over critical U.S. energy infrastructure? I would hate to see Rosneft be the sign hanging over Fenway Park.

  • 44:50 Senator Bob Menendez: They’re— Unknown Speaker: No, I didn’t take it that way. Sen. Menendez: —just to the administration, because I think we can chew and walk gum—I know that my dear colleague, Senator Young, had a comment for me last week. I wish he was here—we can chew and walk gum, you know, and walk at the same time, which means as we’re going through cabinet officials, doesn’t mean we couldn’t get nominations that this committee, on a bipartisan basis, is generally processed very quickly.

  • 49:50 Senator Marco Rubio: On the USAID piece, there’s a reason why we’re not in there: they don’t let us. The Venezuelan government does not allow open aid because they deny that there’s an emergency.

  • *51:00 Mark Feierstein: As I noted before, I think we are better positioned now than we were a couple years ago because of changes in certain governments in the region, as we talked about—Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and others. I believe that, again, in the coming months, I think that some of the—that there is an opportunity—there will be an opportunity to invoke the Charter to threaten the suspension of Venezuela from the organization. And, I guess—I noted what I think, you know, we need. We need three forms of pressure for the dialog to succeed. I agree with you: dialog has not succeeded. The government has used it to buy time, to defuse domestic protests, to keep the international community at bay. But if the opposition’s able to mobilize internally; if we’re able to apply additional sanctions, and ideally, multilateralize them; and if we’re able to mobilize countries in the OAS to invoke the Charter to threaten the suspension of Venezuela from the OAS; I think, then, there would be greater prospects for a positive outcome in Venezuela.

  • 54:55 Senator Tom Udall: I didn’t vote in favor of increased sanctions against Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la). I thought then and I believe now they’re counterproductive and could lead to further entrenchment of the current Venezuelan (Ven-su-way-len) regime, and that’s exactly what happened. The Venezuelan (Ven-su-way-len) people, many who oppose the government, are suffering. They’re going without food, without medicine, without power, without the essentials.

  • 55:40 Senator Tom Udall: Mr. Smilde, are you clear that taking a hardline approach to Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la) will likely lead to a Cubanization of our policies there?

  • 56:11 Senator Tom Udall: As to Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la), can you outline what role you think the Foreign Relations Committee or others should take to encourage a multilateral effort to ensure that elections are held in 2018 and to prevent a Cubanization of policies in Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la)?

  • 58:00 Senator Tom Udall: Dr. O’Neil, would you agree that in Venezuela (Ven-su-way-la) different factions now view the situation as a zero-sum game?

  • 1:14:25 Shannon O’Neil: One thing that has in the past in Venezuela brought the opposition together is elections, right, is a mechanism that you’re pushing towards a particular goal. And so as we look forward for 2017, there’s a party-registration process that is about to begin, and there’s questions about who may or may not qualify there and if the National Electoral committee will actually play fair in that sense. That is something that you could rally together different groups if it’s seen unfair in terms of qualifications. And then we have pending elections that did not happen at the end of last year, regional elections that may or may not be put on the table. And so I think internally, a push for elections—because that is a constitutional mechanism for parties to participate in democracy—and perhaps outside as well, we can be pushing for these parts, even we know democracy is not existent there anymore, but can we push for elections, can we push, and that’s something, at least, to galvanize those that are not in power today.

Video: Trump: "The war in Iraq was a BIG FAT MISTAKE", Youtube, February 15, 2016. Hearing: Deepening Political and Economic Crisis in Venezuela: Implications for U.S. Interests and the Western Hemisphere, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, C-SPAN, March 17, 2015. Hearing: Assessing Venezuela's Political Crisis: Human Rights Violations and Beyond, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, C-SPAN May 8, 2014. White House Daily Briefing: Middle East Conflict and Coup in Venezuela, C-Span, April 16, 2002. State Dept Daily Briefing: Middle East Situation and Failed Coup in Venezuela, C-SPAN, April 15, 2002. Community Suggestions

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jun 25 2018
2 hours 37 mins
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Rank #12: CD175: State of War

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The State Department is known as the agency that solves conflicts with words but a closer look reveals that it’s much more connected to war than most of us think. By examining the State Department’s funding for 2018, discover the State Department’s role in regime changes past, current, and future. In this episode, you’ll also get an introduction to the National Endowment for Democracy, a scandalous organization with a noble sounding name. Mike Glaser joins Jen for the Thank You’s.

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Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Testimony: State Department Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request, Foreign Affairs Committee, C-SPAN, May 23, 2018.
  • 5:32 Chairman Ed Royce (CA): The National Endowment for Democracy in particular should be strongly supported. Let’s face it: democracy is on the ropes worldwide; supporting it is a moral and strategic good. NED is backing critical programming in Venezuela and Nigeria and worldwide. It is no time to cut this programming.

  • 6:00 Chairman Ed Royce (CA): The administration has rightly provided lethal arms to Ukraine, which remains under siege by Russian proxies.

  • 6:16 Chairman Ed Royce (CA): A far more severe threat is Moscow’s information war. This committee has heard that Moscow’s goal isn’t so much to make Western citizens think this or think that; Russia’s goal is to destroy all confidence in objective thought. By undermining fact-based discussions with lies, our enemies hope to gravely damage Western democracies. The State Department must aggressively counter disinformation through its global engagement center, other means, and with department officials speaking out for the truth.

  • 18:05 Mike Pompeo: On Monday I unveiled a new direction for the president’s Iran strategy. We will apply unprecedented financial pressure; coordinate with our DOD colleagues on deterrents efforts; support the Iranian people, perhaps most importantly; and hold out the prospect for a new deal with Iran. It simply needs to change its behavior.

  • 19:40 Mike Pompeo: This budget request seeks $2.2 billion to help stimulate American economic growth by expanding markets for U.S. investment and ensuring the partner countries can fully participate in the global economy.

  • 19:55 Mike Pompeo: America’s message, a noble one, must be shared with the world at all times. Gentleman Royce, you mentioned the global engagement center. We will work with the 55-plus-million dollars available to cover both its original mission, counter extremism, plus countering state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. We will not tolerate Russian interference in our 2018 elections. Much work has been done; there’s more to do. Rest assured that we will take the appropriate countermeasures in response to the continued Russian efforts.

  • 35:05 Mike Pompeo: First, with respect to Venezuela, we did this morning receive a formal notification that our charged affairs had been PNG’d. We will respond appropriately, certainly reciprocally, but perhaps more than that. Perhaps proportionately. We understand that there’s a second U.S. officer who will also be PNG’d. We’re well aware. We’re watching the Maduro regime continue to engage in destructive behavior for the Venezuelan people.

  • 1:44:35 Paul Rep. Cook (CA): Foreign military sales. A number of the countries are concerned. Peru is— Mike Pompeo: Mm-hmm. Rep. Cook: —I think they’re putting in a plug for the C-130Js. Very, very interested. And so I obviously am very, very concerned. Before, in the past, we’re much more involved in that. And as I said, there’s a lot of countries, most notably China and Iran, that are involved in that. What can we do to increase foreign military sales in that region? Pompeo: I, for one, would advocate for working closely with them and encouraging them to purchase U.S. equipment that fit their country, that was the right tool set for them, for themselves and their security interests. I hope that we can, across the board, streamline the State Department’s process connected with foreign military sales. There’s work to do. Rep. Cook: And I brought up this subject before in regards to NATO. You know, Eastern Europe, they’re still reliant on the parts from Russia. Once you go with another country, you’re going to be dependent on that. So, I think we’ve got to look at that whole situation, or once they buy, they’re going to be buying there for the next five generations or something. Pompeo: Yes, sir. Rep. Cook: Thank you very much. I yield back.

  • 1:54:17 Rep. Scott Perry (PA): And in Bosnia, I’m concerned that there’s an October election and there’s a problem with the constitution. The date and accords were never supposed to last 20 years. They have. But I’m concerned that we’re not headed in the right place there. And I just want to get your thoughts on that, if we’re going to wait to see what happens, if we’re going to take preemptive action. I would hate to see that thing burn down and then—with the United States having troops on the ground there to try and secure the peace, and also if we’re interested in pursuing putting some forces there, again, to thwart Russia, and if that’s a consideration. So, those two topics, sir. Mike Pompeo: So, let me start first with Bosnia. We’re working on the very issue you described. I can’t say a lot about it, but know that the State Department, others, Department of Defense are there. We understand the risk. We think the region’s very important. We know the—and this transitions to your second part of the question which is, we know the Russians are hard at work there destabilizing— Rep. Perry: As are the Turks, right? Pompeo: Yes. And so there are a handful, although admittedly not sufficiently sized levers currently being employed, and we’re working to develop a strategy that puts us in a better place.

  • 1:55:35 Rep. Scott Perry (PA): Mr. Secretary, this is a picture—I’m sure you’re well aware—of an M1 tank manufactured right here in the United States, paid for by the citizens of the United States, with their taxes. That is a Hezbollah flag on it. I am concerned and have written letters regarding the Train and Equip Program in Iraq and the Shia Crescent and the land bridges they’re building across Iraq with the militias there again. Many of the Iranian people want freedom, they want peace, and the don’t agree with the regime that they’re working—living under. But I offered amendments in the NDAA to stop the funding and the Train and Equip Program. One was found in favor; one was not. So we leave it up to you. I want to make sure that you’re aware that this is happening, including militias like Kata’ib Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist organization for killing American soldiers. And if the Congress is unwilling to stop it, I hope you will be willing to stop the funding and the Train and Equip Program in Iraq and funding the Iranian militias that are willing to kill Americans and Jews and everybody across the Crescent that disagrees with them. Mike Pompeo: I’ll say this: it is the case that when we perform Train and Equip functions from time to time, equipment ends up in the hands of the wrong people. It’s a risk inherent in those operations. The question becomes, is the value we’re getting from that training, those exercises, outweigh the risk that that happens? You should know that the U.S. government works diligently to put rules and processes in place to make that picture, or pictures like that, as infrequent as possible. Rep. Perry: I don’t think the Iraqis are complying.

  • 2:03:45 Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL): In terms of what’s going on in Venezuela, there’s a pretty significant Cuban presence of military intelligence. Is that your estimation? Mike Pompeo: I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question? Rep. DeSantis: In terms of the situation in Venezuela, propping up the Maduro regime, is part of that the Cuban military and intelligence apparatus? Pompeo: In this setting I can say there are a great deal of Cuban influence that is working alongside the Maduro regime. Rep. DeSantis: And it’s not helpful to what America wants. Pompeo: It runs adverse to U.S. interests, directly adverse to U.S. interests.

  • 2:05:42 Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL): The Iranian people, obviously, are not happy with this regime. I mean, this is a militant, Islamic regime that’s been really imposed on relatively pro-Western populous, educated middle class. We see the protests. The president has spoken out, I think correctly. What can we do to help, because it seems like the regime cracks down on the social networks, they don’t want there to be a free flow of information, but I think it’s certainly in our interests to empower people who view this regime as illegitimate and not representative of their ideals. Mike Pompeo: It’s long been U.S. deeply held position that we will do the things we can to ensure that peoples all around the world have their human rights, their political rights, their capacity to express themselves. We shouldn’t shy away from that with respect to Iran, either. There are a number of tools that we can use, some of which I’m now responsible for their implementation; others exist other places in government. We should bring them all to bear to allow the Iranian people to be governed by the leaders that they choose.

  • 2:59:44 Rep. Ted Lieu (CA): I’d like to ask you now about Yemen. As you know, the war in Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Over 22 million people are now at risk of starvation, 8 million don’t know where their next meal will be, and every 10 minutes a child dies of preventable causes. So the U.S. is involved in Yemen in two ways. One is we are striking terrorists. Now, I don’t have a problem with that. But the other way we’re involved is we are assisting the Saudi-led military coalition. And again, I don’t have a problem with assisting our allies, but I do have a problem when that coalition is killing large numbers of civilians through airstrikes that are nowhere near military targets. And as of last September, more than 5,000 civilians have been killed, the majority from these airstrikes. In 2016 the State Department, its lawyers, have wrote a memo saying that because we’re refueling these planes, the Saudi jets, and also providing them other assistance, that U.S. personnel could be considered a co-belligerent and liable for war crimes. I know you just came on as secretary of state. Wonder if you’ve had a chance yet to read that memo. Mike Pompeo: I have not. Rep. Lieu: At your convenience. Pompeo: But I will. I will review the memo. Rep. Lieu: Thank you. I appreciate that. And if you could also make a request to your state department to see if members of Congress could also review that memo in a classified setting as well, that’d be appreciated. Pompeo: Have you—You’ve not had a—I take it you’ve not had a chance to see it. Rep. Lieu: We have not. Pompeo: Yes, sir. Rep. Lieu: So if you could make that request, that’d be great. Pompeo: I will review that, absolutely. Rep. Lieu: Thank you. So, when this conflict first started, we had all these airstrikes from Saudi-led coalition, and what it turned out is that it’s not that they were trying to hit a Houthi vehicle that was moving and they missed and struck a bunch of civilians; what ended up happening is they intentionally struck those civilian targets. So they struck hospitals, weddings, schools, markets, and last year they struck a funeral, that killed hundreds of people, twice. So they hit this funeral, and the jets went around and hit it again a second time. Very precise. That’s why the Obama administration actually stopped a shipment of precision-guided munitions because they realized actually these jets are intending to strike their targets and they were civilians. It’s my understanding that the Trump administration is now going to go forward with that sale. Just wondering why do you think anything has changed in Yemen that would authorize this sale to go forward? Mike Pompeo: So, I’m cursorily familiar with the incidents you’re describing. There are a very rigid set of rules that are thought deeply about in every national security agency that I’ve been part of—at the CIA before, now at State Department—with respect to providing munitions to organizations that are intentionally engaging in civilian targeting. We have a complex set of rules and prohibitions. We would never do that. It is this administration’s judgment that providing the precision-guided munitions actually decreases the risk to civilians. And it’s for that reason we think this actually makes sense, certainly for our allies and partners but also for citizens that are engaged in ordinary activity inside of Yemen. And if I might, this administration’s also taken serious action to do our best to reduce the humanitarian crisis that is Yemen as well. We’ve not resolved it, but we’ve made real progress. Rep. Lieu: Thank you.

News Interview: Bolton: 'Our goal should be regime change in Iran', Fox News, January 1, 2018. Video: 2004 State of the Union Address , C-SPAN, January 20, 2004. Congress: Ron Paul: War with Iran has already been decided by the Financial Elite, C-SPAN, January 3, 2012.
  • 1:40:39* Senator Rand Paul (KY): I think many people would admit that the Iran agreement had some deficiencies. One of the largest deficiencies might have been that the $100 billion was released all at once instead of maybe gradually to help modulate behavior over a longer period of time. That being said, the $100 billion that was released was a great inducement to get Iran to sign the agreement. That was a carrot, and that carrot’s gone. They’ve gotten the good thing, and now we want compliance, and now we’re pulling out. And so the question is, what are the next inducements to get them to sign things, or will there not be? I think there’s a question with—there are two possibilities, basically, of what will happen. So you reintroduce the strongest sanctions ever. They either don’t work—that’s one possibility—because they’re unilateral, and some say unilateral sanctions won’t work. Let’s say they don’t work. That means Europe, China, and Russia continue to trade with them, and Iran says, “Well, they’re going to continue to trade with us. We’ll just keep abiding by the agreement.” They don’t develop any more nuclear weapons or technology towards that, but they don’t do anything else that you would like—ballistic missiles, less terrorism. So, really, basically, we don’t get what we want if the sanctions don’t work. Second possibility. Let’s say the sanctions do work. We have enough manipulation of money that flows through us from Europe. Europe does a lot of trade with us. Europe buckles. I think Russia and China still will trade with them, but let’s say Europe buckles. And let’s say it works, and it puts enough pressure on Iran, then there are two possibilities of what Iran does. The first possibility is they say, “Oh, Secretary Pompeo. We love Secretary Pompeo’s 12-point strategy, and we’re going to accept that.” I think that’s unlikely. The second possibility, if the sanctions work and they put enough pressure on them—Iran feels the pressure—is that they restart their nuclear centrifuge program. So those are two possibilities. But what I’d like to do is go through the 12 steps that you’d like Iran to do and sort of explore what these would mean if we thought about them in terms of bigger than Iran. So one of your first things is—and this came up during JCPOA, but nobody really could really get this done—you want Iran to reveal the military dimensions of its nuclear program. Well, let’s substitute Israel for Iran there. Does anybody think Israel’s going to reveal the military dimensions of their nuclear program? Well, you’ll say, “Well, they’re our friend.” Well, yeah, but from Iran’s perspective they see Israel as a rival and a regional rival. Let’s put Saudi Arabia in there. Well, Saudi Arabia revealed the military dimensions of its nuclear program. Well, some might say, “Mm, they don’t really have it.” But I’m guessing there are files over at the CIA that say, “Well, you know what? They have talked to people about purchasing it. Some say they have purchased nuclear technology.” I can guarantee we know that, and you probably can’t admit it, but let’s put Saudi Arabia in there. Are they willing to discuss anything they have done to develop nuclear weapons? So really what you’re asking for is something that they are never going to agree to. Okay? You can try to crip them. It’s sort of like unconditional surrender. You’re not getting that. Let’s move on. Proliferation of ballistic missiles. I don’t like them threatening surrounding countries or us with ballistic missiles. Nobody does. But they respond not just to us; they respond to Saudi Arabia. There’s a 1,000-year-old war over there. There’s a 1,000-year-old religious war over there, and there’s hostility between the two. So when we supply weapons and the Saudis buy ballistic missiles—the Saudis have a ballistic program—they respond to that. The Saudis and their allies, the Gulf sheikhdom, spend eight times more than Iran. So when you tell Iran, “Oh, well, you have to give up your ballistic-missile program,” but you don’t say anything to the Saudis, you think they’re ever going to sign that? They would have to be crippled and starving people in the streets for them ever to agree to give up their ballistic-missile program. Had we kept the Iran agreement with them and you said to the Iranians, “Well, we want less of an arms race over there. We’d like to have peace with Saudi Arabia. Could we get Saudi Arabia to the table, with Iran, to discuss either a freeze of ballistic missiles—” you know, when we went to Russia, we didn’t just succumb and say we’d give up our weapons. Neither did Russia. We did it in parity. We had an agreement. If you leave Saudi Arabia out of it and you leave Israel out of it and you look at Iran in isolation, that’s not the way they perceive it. So, don’t think they’re going to jump at your 12 notions here of what you’d like them to do. Mike Pompeo: Senator, may I make this one point? Paul: Go ahead. Pompeo: I think the example of Saudi Arabia’s a reasonable one. We have told the Saudis exactly what I asked from the Iranians. Paul: To talk about their nuclear program? Pompeo: They have said they want a peaceful nuclear-energy program, and we have told them we want a gold-standard, Section 123 agreement from them, which would not permit them to enrich. That is simply all I’ve asked of Iran as well. Paul: Do we have information that the Saudis have talked to actors in Pakistan and other places about purchasing nuclear technology? Pompeo: Sir, I can’t answer that here this morning. Paul: Which is to say we, in all likelihood, do have that information. And so the thing is it’s a one-way playing field. Unless we understand that there are two big players over there—really, three big players: you got Iran, you got Israel, and you got Saudi Arabia—we want Iran to do things we’re not willing to ask anybody else to do and that we would never do. So— Pompeo: Senator, I disagree with you. I think we ask most nations to do precisely what we’re asking Iran to do. Paul: Let’s move on to another one of your 12 points and the military support for the Houthi rebels. Well, once again, you’re asking them to end it, but you’re not asking the Saudis to end their bombardment of Yemen. I mean, if you look at the humanitarian disaster that is Yemen, it is squarely on the shoulders of the Saudis. And so we’re going to ask the Iranians to quit supplying—they, in all likelihood, are the ones supplying the missiles—and we get reports, and the Defense Department comes and says, “There’ve been 32 missiles strikes in Saudi Arabia.” Well, there’s been, like, 16,000 bombings of Yemen by Saudi Arabia. Nobody even mentions that. We act as if it didn’t even happen. If we are so ignorant that there’re two sides to this war, we’re never getting anywhere. Iran’s not going to stop doing that, but they might if you sat them down with the Saudi Arabians, said, “This arms race doesn’t make sense,” and Saudi Arabia’s willing to sit down at the table. You know, is Saudi Arabia willing to stop, another one’s withdrawal all forces under Iran’s command throughout the entirety of Syria? There were dozens of groups in there, even ISIS, that were getting weapons from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In fact, one of the leaked emails from WikiLeaks was from Clinton to Podesta, saying, “My goodness. We’ve got to stop Saudi Arabia and Qatar from funding ISIS.” That’s a direct email. They were acknowledging they knew about it, and they were acknowledging it was a problem, but weapons were flowing in to all kinds of radicals in there. So if you want Iran to stop—and I mean, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are 10 times the problem, you know? The whole Syrian war has all of these radical jihadists. The people who attacked us came from Saudi Arabia. We ignore all that, and we lavish them with more bombs. So, really, until we acknowledge there are two sides to the war—or three sides to the war in the Middle East—you’re not going to get the agreement. I think it was naïve to pull out of the Iran agreement, and I think in the end, we’ll be worse off for it.
United Nations Address: Jon Bolton U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., June 18, 2006. Cover Art

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Jun 11 2018
2 hours 57 mins
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Rank #13: CD154: The OTHER Health Care Bills

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We've paid a lot of attention this year to the bill that would “Repeal and Replace” the Affordable Care Act but that is not the only bill related to health care that is moving through Congress. In this episode, learn about the other health care bills that have made it just as far as the Repeal and Replace bill, including one that is already law. Also in this episode, we laugh at the Senate for inventing holidays and doing so in the dumbest way possible.

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Bills Outline Laws H.J. Res. 430: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule submitted by Secretary of Health and Human Services relating to compliance with title X requirements by project recipients in selecting subrecipients.
  • Overturns a rule finalized by the Obama Administration that would have prevented States from cutting off Federal funds for "family-planning services".
Bills In Progress H.R. 372: Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017 H.R. 1101: Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017 H.R. 1215: Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 Additional Reading References Videos Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Rules Committee Hearing, House of Representatives Committee on Rules, February 14, 2017.

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 6:40 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): I’ll make the point I continue to make about the process. Both of these rules, or protections, went through a long process, and whether you agree with them or not, there was a process. Here we are; the committees with jurisdiction did no hearings on this, have basically—there’ll be no opportunity for review. We know what the outcome is going to be: two more closed rules. So it’s kind of this whole hearing is kind of pointless because, again, the process is going to be the most restrictive that it can be.
  • 9:40 Rep. Tim Walberg (MI): As you know, Title X is the only domestic federal program that provides grants for family-planning services. Grants go directly to states and non-governmental organizations, which then distribute money among healthcare providers. Over half of the grantees are state and local governmental agencies, which serve as intermediaries to distribute funding to subgrantees. Prior to this rule, states were free to direct their Title X funds to healthcare providers that did not participate in abortion. When states had this freedom, they were able to choose to invest in women’s health care instead of abortion. The new rule blocks states from restricting grants to potential recipients for reasons other than the ability to provide Title X services. Under this rule, states are prevented from establishing criteria that would eliminate abortion providers from receiving Title X grant money.
Hearing: H.R. 372, the "Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017", House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, February 16, 2017.

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 10:15 Rep. John Conyers (MI): I am pleased that the subcommittee’s first hearing of this new Congress is on H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017, which repeals the antitrust exemption in the McCarran-Ferguson Act for the health insurance business. For many years I’ve advocated for such a repeal, so I’m heartened to see the bipartisan nature of the support for this position.
  • 11:50 Rep. John Conyers (MI): Congress passed McCarran-Ferguson Act in response to a 1944 Supreme Court decision, finding that antitrust laws applied to the business of insurance, like everything else. Both insurance companies and the states expressed concern about that decision. Insurance companies worried that it would jeopardize certain collective practices like joint-rate setting and a pooling of historical data, and the states were concerned about losing their authority to regulate and tax the business of insurance. To address these concerns, McCarran-Ferguson provided the federal antitrust laws apply to the business of insurance only to the extent that it is not regulated by state law, which has resulted in a broad antitrust exemption. Industry and state revenue concerns, rather than the key goals of protecting competition and consumers, were the primary drivers of the Act. In passing McCarran-Ferguson, Congress, however, initially intended to provide only a temporary exemption and, unfortunately, gave little to consideration to ensuring competition.
  • 26:15 Rep. Austin Scott (GA): Be definition, health care and health insurance are not the same thing. But when one insurance company controls such significant portions of the cash flow of all of the providers in a region, no provider can stay in business without a contract with that carrier. Therefore, the insurance company gets to determine who is and who is not able to provide health care: sign a contract with a competing carrier, and we’ll cancel your contract. Accept the lower reimbursement, or we’ll cancel your contract. It’s closer to extortion than negotiation.
Hearing: Legislative Proposals to Improve Health Care Coverage, House Committee on Education and Workforce, March 1, 2017.

Witnesses

  • Allison Klausner: American Benefits Council, which represents Fortune 500 companies
  • Lydia Mitts: Associate Director of Affordability at Families USA, a consumer advocate org.
  • Jay Ritchie: Executive VP of Toko Marine HCC-Stop Loss Group & Chairman of the Self-Insurance Institute of America
  • Jon Hurst: President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 25:50 Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC): Ultimately, they are fighting to maintain government control—government control over the kind of health insurance you can buy, government control over the kind of health insurance employers can and cannot offer workers, government control over the doctors you can see and the doctors you can’t see, and government control over certain healthcare benefits that many individuals may not need. Yet despite the cost and pain inflicted on so many Americans by Obamacare, the answer for some is still more government control.
  • 47:35 Lydia Mitts: The second bill I would like to speak to is the Small Business Health Fairness Act. This bill would exempt association health plans from adhering to critical state and federal requirements for small-group coverage. These requirements have benefited small employers and their workers alike. They include protections that prevent plans from charging small employers exorbitantly higher premiums because their employees have poor health, are older, or are disproportionately women. They also include requirements that plans cover comprehensive benefits that meet the needs of a diverse workforce. By allowing association health plans to ignore these key protections, this bill would increase premiums and threaten stable access to comprehensive coverage for many small employers and their workers. Employers with a young workforce that is in pristine health may be able to get lower premiums. However, the rest of small businesses would see coverage become less affordable, whether they sought it through an association or the existing small-group market. On top of this, employees move to association plans would be at risk of facing skimpier coverage that doesn’t cover the care they need.
  • 1:41:20 Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR): Ms. Mitts, the ACA included, as we know, unprecedented new consumer protections for patients, such as eliminating annual and lifetime limits, preventing insurers from dropping people when they get sick, charging women higher premiums. What will happen to these protections in association health plans? Lydia Mitts: Under the bill put forth to you today, those association health plans would no longer have to comply with so many of those rating protections that have been a huge benefit to many small businesses that prior before the Affordable Care Act actually had a really hard time finding affordable coverage for their employees because they employed employees who actually had healthcare needs, who were maybe older, and the market didn’t work for them before. And so we would move back to a situation where we’d have a segmented market, and people who are healthy, in pristine health, could move into an association health plan. I think the thing that’s important to keep in mind is that that doesn’t mean that association health plan would always be there and work for that small employer. If their workforce got older, claims went up, they might find that that association health plan charges them more, and it’s not a viable option for them anymore. Bonamici: Can you address—I know there’ve been some solvency concerns about some of the association health plans. Can you address that concern as well? Mitts: Yeah, there’s historically been concerns about association health plans not having adequate solvency funds. They have leaner, less rigid requirements than typical health insurance coverage. Partially state oversight was added to that to help address some of these problems, bigger problems, where they were just under ERISA. And when an association plan goes insolvent, their employers and their workers are still left with all of those unpaid medical claims and then on the hook for them. And if the plans are not under state jurisdiction, they won’t be able to benefit from state guaranty funds that help pay those claims, so they’ll be left on the hook for them.
Hearing: H.R. 1215 Hearing-Part 1, House Committee on the Judiciary, February 28, 2017.

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 44:20 Rep. Steve King (IA): One of the drivers of higher healthcare spending is defensive medicine. It’s a very real phenomenon confirmed by countless studies in which healthcare workers conduct many additional costly tests and procedures with no medical value that are charged to the federal taxpayers and to other consumers simply to avoid excessive litigation costs.
  • 45:25 Rep. Steve King (IA): They include the following: a bedside sonogram with an “official sonogram” because it’s easier to defend yourself to a jury if you’ve ordered the second sonogram; a CT scan for every child who bumped his head, or her head, to rule out things that can be diagnosed just fine by observation; x-rays that do not guide treatment such as for a simple broken arm; or CT scans for suspected appendicitis that has been perfectly well diagnosed without it. In fact, I have an orthopedic surgeon who has said to me that when he has a knee injury, 97% of the tests that he orders are protection from malpractice. He knows what he’s going to operate on before he actually starts the surgery.
  • 51:55 Steve Cohen: And if we want to make health care cheaper, which we should, and make it more affordable, we ought to have a single-payer system. That would make it more affordable. And if that’s the nexus that makes this law applicable for the federal government to usurp the states, and the Chairman said that the nexus was that it makes things cheaper and anything makes health care cheaper is so important that we need to take it away from the states, well, if you’re concerned about cost, you should be for a single-payer system, and that would make it cheaper and take profits away from insurance companies that right now are paying for ads to get people to buy drugs and making immense profits and having their executives draw salaries in the areas of 40 and 50 million dollars. This bill takes away from people who are hurt by medical malpractice in ways that are artificial and wrong, and we should not be on the side of those people who commit medical malpractice and cause injuries to others. With all of that said, I respectfully suggest that the agenda we’re following is not the agenda of the American people at the present time, and it’s the agenda of the American Medical Association, who’s here today, and this is the bill du jour.
Hearing: Tom Price, HHS Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request, Senate Finance Committee, June 8, 2017.

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 44:37 Sen. Tom Carper (DE): And I like those ideas. I studied a little bit of economics at Ohio State as navy ROTC midshipman. I like market forces. I like trying to harness market forces and make them work. You came up with a good idea in 1993, and I just wish to heck that you would work with us to try to make sure that those good ideas have a chance of working. And the reason why the marketplaces are failing in places, like you mentioned Ohio in your statement, Mr. Chairman, the reason why they’re not working, we’ve basically undermined the individual mandate so that people will know if they really have to get coverage. Young people aren’t. We’ve taken off the training wheels, so to stabilize the marketplaces and insurance companies. They lost their shirts in 2014 because of it. They lost less money in 2015. Got better. They raised their premiums, they raised their copays, they raised their deductibles, and they did better in it. And tells that rather than the marketplaces being a death spiral at the end of 2016, they’re actually recovering, until a new administration came in and said, well, we’re not sure if we’re going to enforce the individual mandate, and, by the way, we don’t know for sure whether they’re going to extend the cost-sharing arrangements. That provides unpredictable lack of certainty for the insurance companies. What do they do? They say, we’re going to raise our premiums more. What you’re destabilizing, the very idea that these guys came up with 24 years ago. Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT): Well, if I could just interrupt for a second. Those were ideas that were against—it was part of the anti-Hillary care bill, and it— Carper: They were good ideas. Tom Price: Well— Carper: And I commend you for them. If my life depended on telling what Hillary care did, I couldn’t tell you. But I know what your bill did, and, frankly, there were good ideas, and now we’re undermining undercutting them. Why? Dr. Price, why? Price: Senator, I appreciate the observation. I would add to that that there are significant challenges out there, and there were so before this administration started. In your state alone, premiums were up 108% before this administration started. In your state alone, there were fewer insurance companies offering coverage on the exchange before this administration started. So what we’re trying to do is to address especially that individual and small-group market that is seeing significant increases in premiums, increases in deduct— Carper: What are you doing? What are you doing to doing? How are you stabilizing the marketplaces? Price: Well, we— Carper: Just give us some ideas. The three Rs. What are you doing on those? Reinsurance, risk adjustment, risk corridors. What are you doing there? Price: We passed it—or we put in place a market-stabilization rule earlier this year that identified the special enrollment periods and the grace periods to make certain that they were more workable for both individuals and for insurance companies. We allowed the states greater flexibility in determining what a qualified health plan was, to try to provide greater stability for the market. We put out word to all governors across this nation on both 1115 and 1332 waivers and suggestions regarding what they can do to allow for greater market stabilization in their states, and we look forward to working with you and other senators to try to make certain that all those individuals, not just in the individual and small-group market but every single American has the opportunity to gain access to the kind of coverage that works for them and their families.
Sen. Mazie Hirono designated February 3rd as "National Wear Red Day." This is what she wore.

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Jul 24 2017
1 hour 49 mins
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Rank #14: CD144: Trump’s War Manufacturers

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Defense Secretary General James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have been confirmed by the Senate and are now the most powerful influencers of foreign policy in the Trump Administration. In this episode, we examine their worldviews by investigating their pre-Trump Administration experience as corporate titans and hearing critical highlights from their confirmation hearings.

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Israeli Settlements and Outposts

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Additional Reading References Sound Clip Sources Interview: General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned - Seven Countries In Five Years, Democracy Now, March 2007. Presidential Speech: Eisenhower's Farewell Address, January 17, 1961. News Segment: Trump and Mattis Disagree on Russia, Torture on CNN News Channel, CNN, December 3, 2016. Video: Middle East Security Challenges, Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 22, 2016. Video: The Third Presidential Debate: Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump, NBC News, October 19, 2016. Hearing: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Confirmation, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 11, 2017.

Timestamps & Transcripts Part 1

  • 54:17 Rex Tillerson: We are the only global super power with the means and the moral compass capable of shaping the world for good. If we do not lead, we risk plunging the world deeper into confusion and danger.
  • 1:11:18 Senator Ben Cardin: So, what would you have done, after we were surprised by what they did in taking over Crimea, what should the U.S. leadership had done in response to that, that we didn’t do? Rex Tillerson: I would have recommended that the Ukraine take all of its military assets it had available, put them on that eastern border, provide those assets with defensive weapons that are necessary just to defend themselves, announce that the U.S. is going to provide them intelligence and that either NATO or U.S. will provide air surveillance over that border to monitor any movements. Cardin:So, your recommendation would do a more robust supply of military? Tillerson: Yes, sir.
  • 1:12:16 Senator Ben Cardin: Our NATO partners, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are very concerned about Russian aggression. NATO has deployed troops in this region in order to show Russia that Article 5 means something. I take it you support that type of action. Rex Tillerson: Yes, I do. That is the type of response that Russia expects. If Russia acts with force—taking of Crimea was an act of force. They didn’t just volunteer themselves. So that required a proportional show of force to indicate to Russia that there’ll be no more taking of territory.
  • 1:15:45 Senator Ben Cardin: We’re a part of COP21. Do you agree that the United States should continue in international leadership on climate-change issues with the international community? Rex Tillerson: I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table on the conversations around how to address threats of climate change, which do require a global response. No one country’s going to solve this alone.
  • 1:27:35 Senator Bob Menendez: Do you believe it is in the national interest of the United States to continue to support international laws and norms that were established after World War II? Rex Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: Do you believe that the international order includes respecting the territorial integrity of sovereign countries and the inviability of their borders? Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: Did Russia violate this international order when it forcefully annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine? Tillerson: Yes, it did.Menendez: Did Russia’s continuing occupation of foreign countries violate international laws and norms? Tillerson: I’m not sure which specific countries you’re referring to. Menendez: Well, the annexation of Crimea— Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: —Eastern Ukraine, Georgia, just to mention a few. Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: Does Russia and Syria’s targeted bombing campaign in Aleppo, on hospitals, for example, violate this international order? Tillerson: Yes. That is not acceptable behavior.
  • 1:52:23 Senator Jeanne Shaheen: You were unwilling to agree with Senator Rubio’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as a war criminal, and you point out in your statement that Russia has disregarded American interests. I would suggest, as I think has been brought out in later testimony, that it not only has disregarded American interests but international norms and humanitarian interests. The State Department has described Russia as having an authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Freedom House currently puts Russia in a category of countries like Iran, with very restricted political rights ruled by one part or military dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. Do you agree with that characterization of Russia and Vladimir Putin? Rex Tillerson:I would have no reason to take exception.
  • 2:08:15 Senator Jeff Flake: How can we refashion some of our policies to nudge countries toward democracy that need nudging, or that punished countries weren't deemed spent, or encourage cooperation with us on security measures or humanitarian measures? Rex Tillerson: Well, certainly, the use of important USAID assistance really falls in kind of two broad areas: a disaster relief addressing imminent situations on the ground, where there's starvation or the result of storms or as result of conflict, providing assistance to relieve the immediate suffering. That is an important part of USAID. Over the past few years, in looking at the balance of that against, what I would call, development assistance, which is designed to create change, which, hopefully, becomes a sustainable change, that, regrettably, the disaster-assistance part of that budget has grown, and that means there's less available for development. Other important ways in which we can provide the assistance, though, are through other mechanisms, such as millennial challenge corporation for those countries that qualify. That's a different model. And so I think in terms of what is the issue we're trying to address, that then conditions how do we put obligations on the country then to modify behaviors, whether it's to take steps to reduce corruption, improve the strength of governments and their own institutional capacity to manage their affairs. Where I have seen a good progress is when assistance was put into the country with some requirement that, for instance, they modify or streamline their permitting process. One of the ways to begin to reduce corruption is to remove the complexities of how people are able to carry out their activities. The more steps you have in the process, the more opportunities there are for people to be taking something out of it or adding a cost to it.
  • 2:10:24 Rex Tillerson: So, I think where we can tie our assistance to obligations, it’s important that we do so.
  • 2:16:25 Rex Tillerson: As to how I would deal with the past history I have in my prior position with ExxonMobil, I've made clear in my disclosures, and I think in answers to questions that have been posed, that obviously there's a statutory recusal period, which I will adhere to, on any matters that might come before the State Department that deal directly and specifically with ExxonMobil. Beyond that, though, in terms of broader issues dealing with the fact that it might involve the oil and natural gas industry itself, the scope of that is such that I would not expect to have to recuse myself.

Part 2

  • 08:38 Senator Tim Kaine: You were with the company for nearly 42 years? Rex Tillerson: That is correct. Kaine: And for the majority of your time you were with the company in an executive and management position? Tillerson: Approximately half the time. Kaine: And you became CEO in 2006? Tillerson: Correct. Kaine:So, I’m not asking you on behalf of ExxonMobil—you’ve resigned from ExxonMobil. I'm asking you whether those allegations about ExxonMobil's knowledge of climate science and decision to fund and promote a view contrary to its awareness of the science, whether those allegations are true or false. Tillerson: The question would have to be put to ExxonMobil. Kaine: And let me ask you: do you lack the knowledge to answer my question, or are you refusing to answer my question? Tillerson: A little of both.
  • 36:00 Rex Tillerson: We've had two competing priorities in Syria under this administration: Bashar al-Assad must go and the defeat of ISIS. And the truth of the matter is, carrying both of those out simultaneously is extremely difficult because at times they conflict with one another. The clear priority is to defeat ISIS. We defeat ISIS we, at least, create some level of stability in Syria which then lets us deal with the next priority of what is going to be the exit of Bashar Assad, but importantly, before we decide that is in fact what needs to happen, we have to answer the question, what comes next? What is going to be the government structure in Syria, and can we have any influence over that or not?
  • 53:10 Senator Edward Markey: Do you believe that it should be a priority of the United States to work with other countries in the world to find climate-change solutions to that problem? Rex Tillerson: I think it's important for America to remain engaged in those discussions so that we are at the table, expressing a view, and understanding what the impacts may be on the American people and American competitiveness.
  • 1:13:38 Senator Jeff Merkley: There are three individuals who were involved in the Trump campaign—Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and Carter Page—who, public reports, have been involved in dialogue with Russia, with the goal of finding a common strategy, with Russia believing that Trump would be better on Syria and Ukraine policy and Trump believing that Russia could help defeat Hillary Clinton. Now these reports have not been substantiated, I'm sure much more will come on them, but in theory, how do you feel about a U.S. candidate turning to a foreign country to essentially find another partner in defeating another opponent in a U.S. presidential election? Rex Tillerson: That would not comport with our democratic process.
  • 1:16:35 Rex Tillerson: The defeat of ISIS as an ideology, in other words, other than the battlefield, is going to require advanced capabilities in our own communication tools in terms of disrupting their communication to develop their network, more importantly to further their ideology. This means getting into the Internet airspace and putting forth different ideas and disrupting their delivery of ideas to people who are persuaded to join them.
  • 1:23:42 Senator John Barrasso: We have had a situation where some of the programs in place have not really supported all of the above energy, and we've seen where the World Bank has blocked funding for coal-fired power plants which would help bring light and other opportunities to a number of countries in Africa, and I wonder if you could comment on the need to use all of the sources of energy to help people who are living in poverty and without power. Rex Tillerson:Well, I think, and I know you touched on it, but nothing lifts people out of poverty quicker than electricity. That's just a fact. You give people light, you give them the ability to refrigerate food, medicine—it changes their entire quality of life. They no longer cook on animal dung and wood cooking in their homes, so health issues—their health improves. I think it's very important that we use wisely the American people's dollars as we support these programs, and that means whatever is the most efficient, effective way to deliver electricity to these areas that don't have it, that should be the choice, and that is the wisest use of American dollars.
  • 1:27:30 Senator Chris Coons: Do you see RT as a Russian propaganda outlet, and how would you use and lead the resources of the State Department to counter Russian propaganda and to push back on this effort to change the rules of the world order? Rex Tillerson: Well, as you point out, utilizing the opportunity to communicate to the people of Russia through mechanisms that were successful in the past—Radio Free Europe—and utilizing those type of sources as well as providing information on the Internet to the extent people can access Internet so that they have availability to the facts, the facts, as they exist, to the alternative reporting of events that are presented through the largely controlled media outlets inside of Moscow. That is an important way in which to, at least, begin to inform the Russian people as to what the realities are in the world, and it is an important tool. It should be utilized.

Part 3

  • 08:28 Senator Cory Booker: You did characterize the Obama administration's decisions as weakness, even though you're saying that you wouldn't necessarily do something different. Rex Tillerson: In that instance, I would've done something different. Booker: Military force. Tillerson:A show of force at the border of the country that had been already had territory taken from them. Booker: American military force, in this case? Tillerson: No, I indicated Ukrainian military force, supported by the U.S. providing them with capable defensive weapons. If that's not seen across the border, then it's not a show of force.
  • 55:32 Rex Tillerson: I had a great 41-and-a-half-year career, and I was truly blessed, enjoyed every minute of it. That part of my life's over. I've been humbled and honored with the opportunity to now serve my country—never thought I would have an opportunity to serve in this way—and so when I made the decision to say yes to President-elect Trump when he asked me to do this, the first step I took was to retain my own outside counsel, to begin the process, and the only guidance I gave them is I must have a complete and clear, clean break from all of my connections to ExxonMobil—not even the appearance—and whatever is required for us to achieve that, get that in place. I am appreciative that the ExxonMobil Corporation, whoever represented by their own counsel, and the ExxonMobil board were willing to work with me to achieve that as well. It was their objective, too. And in the end, if that required me to walk away from some things, that's fine, whatever was necessary to achieve that. And again, told people, I don't even want the appearance that there's any connection to myself and the future fortunes, up or down, of the ExxonMobil Corporation.
  • 1:04:25 Rex Tillerson: We've got to step back and look at all of China's activities, and the one you mention now—the island-building in the South China Sea, the declaration of control of airspace in waters over the Senkaku Islands with Japan—both of those are illegal actions. They're taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China's. The island-building in the South China Sea itself, in many respects, in my view, building islands and then putting military assets on those island is akin to Russia's taking of Crimea. It's taking of territory that others lay claim to. The U.S. has never taken a side in the issues, but what we have advocated for is, look, that's a disputed area, there are international processes for dealing with that, and China should respect those international processes. As you mentioned, some of their actions have already been challenged at the courts in The Hague, and they were found to be in violation.
  • 1:06:00 Rex Tillerson: But you’ve got five trillion dollars of economic trade goes through those waters every day, and this is a threat to the entire global economy if China’s allowed to somehow dictate the terms of passage through these waters.
  • 1:06:23 Rex Tillerson: We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.
  • 1:45:10 Senator Chris Murphy: Do you believe that the Iraq war—not the conduct of the war, but the war itself—was a mistake? Rex Tillerson: I think I indicated in response—I believe it was to Senator Paul's question—that I think our motives were commendable, but we did not achieve the objectives there: we did not achieve greater stability, we did not achieve improved national security for the United States of America. And that's just, the events have borne that out. And at the time, I held the same view, that I was concerned just as I was concerned before the decisions were made to go into Libya and change the leadership there. It's not that I endorse that leadership, but that leadership had the place somewhat stable with a lot of bad actors locked up in prison. Now, all those bad actors are running around the world. Murphy: Just, just— Tillerson: So it's the question of—it isn't a question that our ultimate goal has to be to change that type of oppressive leadership. It has to be, though, that we know what is coming after, or we have a high confidence that we can control what comes after or influence it, and it will be better than what we just took out. Murphy: But which—in this case, which motives are you referring to that were commendable? Tillerson:I think the concerns were that Saddam Hussein represented a significant threat to stability in that part of the world and to the United States directly.
  • 1:47:00 Senator Chris Murphy: One last question, going back to Russia. You’ve said in earlier—answered an earlier question that you wouldn't commit today to the continuation of sanctions against the Russians for their involvement in the U.S. presidential election, but could you make a commitment to us today that if you deem sanctions to be the inappropriate policy, that you will recommend and argue for a substitute response for the interference in U.S. elections? Will you argue for a U.S. response, even if you don't believe sanctions is the right policy? Rex Tillerson: Yes. Yes, and all I've read is, again, the unclassified portions, but it is troubling. And if there's additional information that indicates the level of interference, it deserves a response.
  • 2:04:25 Senator John Barrasso: The last thing I wanted to get to was the issue of energy as a master resource in the way that Putin uses it as a political weapon. And one of the things we're seeing now is this Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the pipeline between Russia and Germany that the United States has been working closely with our European partners, with respect to that. And this is something that we've had bipartisan support on—looking across the aisle: Senator Shaheen, Senator Murphy have signed a letter with me and with Senator Risch and Senator Rubio, Senator Johnson—because of our concern with the ability of this pipeline to deliver more energy and make Europe more dependent upon Russia for energy. It also bypasses Ukraine and impacts the Ukrainian economy as well when it runs directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea directly into Germany. Several European countries have raised the concerns that this pipeline would undermine sanctions on Russia, increase Russia's political leverage over Eastern Europe, and can you give us your assessment of something of which there's actually a lot of bipartisan agreement on this panel with regard to? Rex Tillerson: Well, energy is vital to every economy the world over, so it can be used as a powerful tool to influence, kind of tip the balance of the table in one party's direction or the other. So it is important that we are watching and paying attention to when this balance is upset. Now, the greatest response the United States can give to that threat is the development of our own natural resources. The country’s blessed with enormous natural resources of both oil and natural gas, and I know the Congress took action here in the recent past to approve the export of crude oil. We now have exports of liquefied natural gas. The more U.S. supply, which comes from a stable country that lives by our values, we can provide optionality to countries so that they cannot be held captive to a single source or to a dominant source.
  • 2:17:45 Senator Rob Portman: I want to talk to you a little about your views on Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship. One important issue for me, as you know, is this issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement—the so-called BDS movement—which is a global movement targeting Israel. I've been concerned about this for a while, introduced some legislation on it. In fact, Ben Cardin and I have not just introduced but passed legislation in this regard to try to push back against the BDS forces. Recently—of course with the consent of the Obama administration—the U.N. Security Council passed this resolution condemning the settlements and demanding Israel cease all activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, is the way the resolution reads. I think this will, no doubt, galvanize additional BDS activity. And so here's my question to you: would you make it a priority to counter Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts against Israel, make sure Israel is not held to a double standard but instead treated as a normal member of the international community? Rex Tillerson: Yes, I would. Portman: Any preliminary thoughts as to how you would do that? Tillerson: Well, I think, just by raising it in our interactions with countries that do put in place provisions that boycott whatever elements of activity or business with Israel in their country, that we begin by highlighting that we oppose that and just expressing that view, and that those countries need to understand that does shade our view of them as well, then. One of the things that would, I think, help change the dynamic, obviously, would be if there were a change in the dynamic regionally. Today, because of Iran and the threat that Iran poses, we now find that Israel, the U.S., and the Arab neighbors in the region all share the same enemy, and this give us an opportunity to discuss things that previously, I think, could not have been discussed.
  • 2:26:45 Senator Jeff Merkley: We are also viewing, often, climate change as a national-security issue, and since you believe—so I wanted to ask, do you see it as a national-security issue? Rex Tillerson: I don’t see it as the imminent national-security threat that, perhaps, others do.
  • 2:27:30 Rex Tillerson: The facts on the ground are indisputable in terms of what’s happening with drought, disease, insect populations, all the things you cite. Now the science behind the clear connection is not conclusive, and there are many reports out there that we are unable, yet, to connect specific events to climate change alone.
  • 2:30:26 Senator Jeff Merkley: We also saw that leading up to Paris, China has committed to producing as much renewable power as our entire electricity production in the United States, and we’ve seen India, now, talking about how to shift providing electricity to 300 million people who don’t have it and doing it primarily, or shifting from primarily a coal strategy to primarily a renewable-energy strategy. So we’re seeing big countries with big populations that have far smaller carbon footprints than the United States stepping up, and shouldn’t we step up as well? Rex Tillerson: I think the United States has stepped up. As I indicated earlier, I think the United States has a record over the last 20 years, of which it can be quite proud.
  • 3:13:55 Rex Tillerson: I think the president-elect’s made clear in his views, that his whole objective of his campaign and putting America first, that he is not going to support anything that would put U.S. industry in any particular sector at a disadvantage to its competitors outside of the U.S., whether it’s automobile manufacturing or steel making or the oil and gas industry.
  • 3:32:57 Rex Tillerson: I have never supported energy independence; I have supported energy security.
Hearing: DoD Secretary James Mattis Confirmation Hearing, Senate Armed Services Committee, January 12, 2017.

CSPAN Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 20:15 Senator John McCain: For seven decades, the United States has played a unique role in the world. We’ve not only put America first, but we’ve done so by maintaining and advancing a world order that has expanded security, prosperity, and freedom. This has required our alliances, our trade, our diplomacy, our values, but most of all, our military for when would-be aggressors aspire to threaten world order. It’s the global striking power of America’s armed forces that must deter or thwart their ambitions. Too many Americans, too many Americans seem to have forgotten this in recent years. Too many have forgotten that our world order is not self-sustaining. Too many have forgotten that while the threats we face may not have purely military solutions, they all have military dimensions. In short, too many have forgotten that hard power matters—having it, threatening it, leveraging it for diplomacy, and, at times, using it. Fairly or not, there is a perception around the world that America is weak and distracted, and that has only emboldened our adversaries to challenge the current world order. The threat posed by violent Islamic extremism continues to metastasize across Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and but for those who remain vigilant, our homeland. It should now be clear that we will be engaged in a global conflict of varying scope and intensity for the foreseeable future; believing otherwise is wishful thinking. So, if confirmed, General Mattis, you would lead a military at war. You of all people appreciate what that means and what it demands. At the same time, our central challenge in the Middle East is not ISIL, as grave a threat as that is. It is a breakdown of regional order in which nearly every state is a battlefield for conflict, a combatant, or both. ISIL is a symptom of this disorder.
  • 51:20 Senator John McCain: You are a distinguished student of history, and, as we are all aware, that following World War II, a world order was established which has held for, basically, the last 70 years. Do you believe that that world order is now under more strain than it’s ever been? James Mattis: I think it’s under the biggest attack since World War II, sir, and that’s from Russia, from terrorist groups, and with what China is doing in the South China Sea. McCain: And that would argue for us making sure we’re adequately prepared to meet these challenges. Mattis:I think deterrence is critical right now, sir. Absolutely. And that requires the strongest military. McCain: Do you think we have a strong-enough military today in order to achieve that goal? Mattis: No, sir.
  • 1:13:08 Senator Jeanne Shaheen: Today, for the first time since the fall of Communism, American troops arrived in Poland as part of the European Reassurance Initiative. How important is it for us to continue these initiatives to reassure our European allies that we will continue to support them, and how concerned are you that some of President-elect Trump’s statements with respect to continuing to support NATO, to support our allies in Europe, has undermined our ability to continue this initiative, and will you support the ERI continuing, as secretary of defense? James Mattis: Senator, I do support ERI. NATO, from my perspective, having served once as a NATO supreme allied commander, is the most successful military alliance probably in modern-world history, maybe ever, and was put together, as you know, by the “greatest generation” coming home from a war to defend Europe against Soviet incursion by their military. Yet the first time it went to war was when this town and New York City were attacked. That’s the first time NATO went into combat. So my view is that nations with allies thrive, and nations without allies don’t, and so I would see us maintaining the strongest-possible relationship with NATO.
  • 1:51:05 Senator Joni Ernst: I do believe we need to look at other regions around the globe, and we cannot turn a blind eye to ISIS in regions outside of the Middle East, such as in Southeast Asia. There are many news reports that have showed those areas are very active, and reports from last year, I noted over 57 Philippine government forces have been killed in battles linked with ISIS groups. There was also an attempted U.S. Embassy bombing in Manila and many other ISIS-claimed attacks throughout that region. Secretary Carter did agree with my assessment on ISIS in Southeast Asia, and President Obama was made well aware of my concerns; however, we have yet to develop a strategy to combat ISIS, especially in those regions where we are not focusing. How should our new administration address the rising threat of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and will you commit to working with me on this, sir? James Mattis: Absolutely, Senator. The way we do this, I think we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so that there’s no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there. There’s got to be a military defeat of them there, but it must, as you point out, be a much broader approach. This requires an integrated strategy so you don’t squeeze them in one place and then they develop in another and we really are right back to square one. We’ve got to have an integrated strategy on this, and it’s got to be one that goes after the recruiting and their fundraising, as well as delivering a military blow against them in the Middle East, and that way you slow down this growth and start rolling it back by, with, and through allies.
  • 2:08:55 Senator Dan Sullivan: In the Arctic, Russia has filled a vacuum left by the U.S., and, as you know, General, just in the past few years the buildup in the Arctic by the Russians has been quite dramatic: a new Arctic command; four new Arctic brigades; 14 operational air fields; 16 deep-water ports; 40 icebreakers, with 13 more on the way, three nuclear powered; huge new land claims in the Arctic for massive oil and gas reserves; the most long-range air patrols with Bear bombers since the Cold War; a snap military exercise in 2015 that included 45,000 troops, 3,400 military vehicles, 41 ships, 15 submarines, and 110 aircraft. What is the effect on the United States not being actively engaged in the Arctic, as you mention in your article? James Mattis: Senator, I think that America has global responsibilities, and it’s not to our advantage to leave any of those areas of the world absent from our efforts. Sullivan: What do you think Russia’s trying to achieve in the Arctic with that massive military buildup? Mattis: I don’t know. I believe, however, that we are going to have to figure it out and make certain that we’re not seeing an expansion of these efforts to dominate, what have been up until now, part of the international commons. Sullivan: What role would you see of increased U.S. presence and involvement with regard to our role in the Arctic versus what the Russians are doing? Mattis: Senator, with the new sea routes of communication that are opening up, as the sea ice retreats, I think we’re going to have to recognize this is an active area, whether it be for search and rescue, for patrolling, maintain sovereignty up along our Alaska coastline, that sort of thing.
  • 2:47:17 Senator Lindsey Graham: Are we going to give the world a veto of what we do? James Mattis: I would never give the world a veto.
  • 3:02:12 Senator Ben Sasse: You have commented, General, on the political objectives must be clearly defined to ensure military success in Iraq and Syria. How will your recommendations for pursuing Iraq and Syria differ from the Obama administration? James Mattis: Senator, I think the most important thing is to know when you go into a shooting war how you want it to end, and by setting out the political conditions that you’re out to achieve up front and come into agreement on that in the national security team and with the Congress, then you give it full resourcing to get there as rapidly as possible. And I think it’s getting there as rapidly as possible is probably where it would differ from the current administration where it would be a more accelerated campaign from what the president-elect has already called for.
Hearing: Central Intelligence Agency Director Confirmation Hearing, Senate Intelligence Committee, January 12, 2017.

CSPAN Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 57:28 Senator Martin Heinrich: You’ve been supportive of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the past, saying, back in September of 2014, that President Obama has continually refused to take the war on radical Islamic terrorism seriously and cited ending our interrogation program in 2009 as an example. Can you commit to this committee that under current law, which limits interrogation to the Army Field Manual, that you will comply with that law and that the CIA is out of the enhanced-interrogation business? Mike Pompeo: Yes. You have my full commitment to that, Senator Heinrich.
Panel: National Security Issues Panel, Foreign Policy Initiative Forum, December 3, 2014. Protest Guide

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Design by Only Child Imaginations

Feb 12 2017
2 hours 49 mins
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Rank #15: CD145: Price of Health Care

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Former Congressman Tom Price is our new Secretary of Health and Human Services, making him the chief law enforcement officer of health care policy in the United States. In this episode, hear highlights from his Senate confirmation hearings as we search for clues as to the Republican Party plans for repealing the Affordable Care Act. We also examine the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in December.

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Bill Outline H.R. 34: 21st Century Cures Act Bill Highlights

Title I: Innovation Projects & State Response to Opioid Abuse

  • Authorizes funding for research programs, if money is appropriated
  • Authorizes $1 billion for grants for States to deal with the opioid abuse crisis
  • The effects of this spending on the Pay as you Go budget will not be counted

Title II: Discovery

  • Creates privacy protections for people who participate as subjects in medical research studies
  • Orders the Secretary of Health and Human Services to a do a review of reporting regulations for researchers in search of regulations to cut, including regulations on reporting financial conflicts of interest and research animal care.
  • Allows contractors to collect payments on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Title III: Development

  • Gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services additional data options for approving drug applications
  • Expedites the review process for new "regenerative advanced therapy" drugs, which includes drugs "intended to treat, modify, reverse or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition" or is a therapy that involves human cells.
  • Allows antibacterial and antifungal drugs to be approved after only being tested on a "limited population"
    • The drugs will have have a "Limited Population" label
  • Speeds up the FDA approval process for new medical devices that help with life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating conditions and that have no existing alternatives.
  • Devices addressing rare diseases or conditions are allowed be approved with lower standards for effectiveness; this provision expands the definition of "rare" by doubling the number of people affected from 4,000 to 8,000.
  • Each FDA employee involved in drug approvals will get training for how to make their reviews least burdensome.

Title IV: Delivery

Title V: Savings

Title VII: Ensuring Mental and Substance Use Disorders Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Programs Keep Pace With Technology

  • Authorizes money to be used for mental health services and substance abuse treatment

Title IX: Promoting Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Care

  • Creates a telephone and online service to help people locate mental health services and substance abuse treatment centers.

Title XIV: Mental health and safe communities

  • Creates a pilot program to test the idea of having court cases with mentally ill defendants heard in "drug or mental health courts"

Title XVII: Other Medicare Provisions

Additional Reading References Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Health and Human Services Secretary Confirmation, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, January 18, 2017 (Part 1) and January 24, 2017 (Part 2).

Timestamps & Transcripts Part 1

  • 47:45 Senator Patty Murray: I want to review the facts. You purchased stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics, a company working to develop new drugs, on four separate occasions between January 2015 and August 2016. You made the decision to purchase that stock, not a broker. Yes or no. Tom Price: That was a decision that I made, yes. Murray: You were offered an opportunity to purchase stock at a lower price than was available to the general public. Yes or no. Price: The initial purchase in January of 2015 was at the market price. The secondary purchase in June through August, September of 2016 was at a price that was available to individuals who were participating in a private-placement offering. Murray:It was lower than was available to the general public, correct? Price: I don’t know that it was. It was the same price that everybody paid for the private-placement offering. Murray: Well, Congressman Chris Collins, who sits on President-elect Trump’s transition team, is both an investor and a board member of the company. He was reportedly overheard just last week off the House floor, bragging about how he had made people millionaires from a stock tip. Congressman Price, in our meeting, you informed me that you made these purchases based on conversations with Representative Collins. Is that correct? Price: No. What I— Murray: Well, that is what you said to me in my office. Price: What I believe I said to you was that I learned of the company from Congressman Collins. Murray: What I recall our conversation was that you had a conversation with Collins and then decided to purchase the stock. Price: No, that’s not correct. Murray: Well, that is what I remember you hearing it—say—in my office. In that conversation, did Representative Collins tell you anything that could be considered “a stock tip?” Yes or no. Price: I don’t believe so, no. Murray: Well, if you’re telling me he gave you information about a company, you were offered shares in the company at prices not available to the public, you bought those shares, is that not a stock tip? Price: Well, that’s not what happened. What happened was that he mentioned—he talked about the company and the work that they were doing in trying to solve the challenge of progressive secondary multiple sclerosis which is a very debilitating disease and one that I— Murray: I’m well aware of that, but— Price: —had the opportunity to treat patients when I was in practice. Murray: I’m aware— Price: I studied the company for a period of time and felt that it had some significant merit and promise, and purchased the initial shares on the stock exchange itself. Murray: Congressman Price, I have very limited time. Let me go on. Your purchases occurred while the 21st Century Cures Act, which had several provisions that could impact drug developers like Innate Immunotherapeutics, was being negotiated, and, again, just days before you were notified to prepare for a final vote on the bill. Congressman, do you believe it is appropriate for a senior member of Congress actively involved in policymaking in the health sector to repeatedly personally invest in a drug company that could benefit from those actions? Yes or no. Price: Well, that's not what happened.
  • 1:06:50 Senator Bernie Sanders: The United States of America is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. Canada does it; every major country in Europe does it. Do you believe that healthcare is a right of all Americans, whether they’re rich or they’re poor? Should people, because they are Americans, be able to go to the doctor when they need to, be able to go into a hospital, because they are Americans? Tom Price: Yes. We’re a compassionate society— Sanders: No, we are not a compassionate society. In terms of our relationship to poor and working people, our record is worse than virtually any other country on earth; we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any other major country on earth; and half of our senior, older workers have nothing set aside for retirement. So I don’t think, compared to other countries, we are particularly compassionate. But my question is, in Canada, in other countries, all people have the right to get healthcare, do you believe we should move in that direction? Price: If you want to talk about other countries’ healthcare systems, there are consequences to the decisions that they’ve made just as there are consequences to the decision that we’ve made. I believe, and I look forward to working with you to make certain, that every single American has access to the highest-quality care and coverage that is possible. Sanders: “Has access to” does not mean that they are guaranteed healthcare. I have access to buying a ten-million-dollar home; I don’t have the money to do that. Price: And that’s why we believe it’s appropriate to put in place a system that gives every person the financial feasibility to be able to purchase the coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, again, not what the government forces them to buy. Sanders: Yeah, but if they don’t have any—well, it’s a long dissert. Thank you very much. Price: Thank you.
  • 1:46:34 Senator Michael Bennet: So, I ask you, sir, are you aware that behind closed doors Republican leadership wrote into this bill that any replacement to the Affordable Care Act would be exempt from Senate rules that prohibit large increases to the deficit? Tom Price: As you may know, Senator, I stepped aside as chairman of the budget committee at the beginning of this year, and so I wasn’t involved in the writing of— Bennet: You have been the budget committee chairman during the rise of the Tea Party; you are a member of the Tea Party Caucus; you have said over and over again, as other people have, that the reason you’ve come to Washington is to reduce our deficit and reduce our debt. I assume you’re very well aware of the vehicle that is being used to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is not— Price: Yes. Bennet: —some small piece of legislation. This is the Republican budget. Price: Yes, I'm aware of the bill. Yes. Bennet: But do you support a budget that increases the debt by $10 trillion? Price: No. What I support is an opportunity to use reconciliation to address the real challenges in the Affordable Care Act and to make certain that we put in place at the same time a provision that allows us to move the healthcare system in a much better direction— Bennet: Do you support the budget that was passed by the Senate Republicans— Price: I support— Bennet:—to repeal the Affordable Care Act that adds $10 trillion of debt to the budget deficit? Price: Well, the reconciliation bill is yet to come. I support the process that allows for and provides for the fiscal year ’17 reconciliation bill to come forward.
  • 2:38:37 Senator Chris Murphy: But do you direct your broker around ethical guidelines? Do you tell him, for instance, not to invest in companies that are directly connected to your advocacy? Because it seems like a great deal: as a broker, he can just sit back, take a look— Tom Price: She. Murphy: —at the positions that you’re taking— Price: She. She can sit back. Murphy: She can—she can sit back— Price: Yeah. Murphy: —in this case—look at the legislative positions you’re taking, and invest in companies that she thinks are going to increase in value based on your legislative activities, and you can claim separation from that because you didn’t have a conversation. Price:Well, that’s a nefarious arrangement that I’m really astounded by. The fact of the matter is that I have had no conversations with my broker about any political activity at all, other than her— Murphy: Then why wouldn’t you tell her— Price: —other than her congratulating— Murphy: Why— Price: —me on my election. Murphy: But why wouldn’t you at least tell her, “Hey, listen; stay clear of any companies that are directly affected by my legislative work”? Price: Because the agreement that we have is that she provide a diversified portfolio, which is exactly what virtually every one of you have in your investment opportunities, and make certain that in order to protect one’s assets that there’s a diversified arrangement for purchase of stocks. I knew nothing about— Murphy: But you couldn’t have— Price: —those purchases. Murphy: But you couldn’t have a diversified portfolio while staying clear of the six companies that were directly affected by your work on an issue? Price: Well, as I said, I didn’t have any knowledge of those purchases. Murphy: Okay.
  • 2:54:20 Senator Elizabeth Warren: One of the companies—it’s the company raised by Mr. Franken, Senator Franken—and that is Zimmer Biomet. They’re one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hip and knees, and they make more money if they can charge higher prices and sell more of their products. The company knows this, and so do the stock analysts. So on March 17, 2016 you purchased stock in Zimmer Biomet. Exactly six days after you bought the stock, on March 23, 2016, you introduced a bill in the House called the Hip Act that would require HHS secretary to suspend regulations affecting the payment for hip and knee replacements. Is that correct? Tom Price: I think the BPCI program to which I think you referred I’m a strong supporter of because it keeps the decision making in the— Warren: I’m not asking you about why you support it. I’m just asking, did you buy the stock, and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you just bought stock in? Price: The stock was bought by a direct—by a broker who was making those decisions. I wasn’t making those decisions. Warren: Okay, so you said you weren’t making those decisions. Let me just make sure that I understand. These are your stock trades, though. They are listed under your name, right? Price: They’re made on my behalf, yes. Warren:Okay. Was the stock purchased through an index fund? Price: I don't believe so. Warren: Through a passively managed mutual fund? Price: No. It’s a broker— Warren: Through an actively managed mutual fund? Price: It’s a broker-directed account. Warren: Through a blind trust? So, let’s just be clear. This is not just a stockbroker, someone you pay to handle the paperwork. This is someone who buys stock at your direction. This is someone who buys and sells the stock you want them to buy and sell. Price: Not true. Warren: So when you found out that— Price: That’s not true, Senator. Warren: Well, because you decide not to tell them—wink, wink, nod, nod—and we’re all just supposed to believe that? Price: It’s what members of this committee, it’s the manner of which— Warren: Well, I’m not one of them. Price: —members of this committee—Well, I understand that— Warren: So, let me just keep asking about this. Price: —but it’s important to appreciate that that’s the case. Warren:Then, I want to understand. When you found out that your broker had made this trade without your knowledge, did you reprimand her? Price: What—what I did was comply— Warren: Well, you found out that she made it. Price: What I did was comply— Warren: Did you fire her? Did you sell the stock? Price: What I did was comply with the rules of the House in an ethical and legal and— Warren: I didn’t ask whether or not the rules of the House— Price: —above-board manner— Warren: —let you do this. Price: —and in a transparent way. Warren: You know, all right. So, your periodic transaction report notes that you were notified of this trade on April 4, 2016. Did you take additional actions after that date to advance[audio cuts out] the company that you now own stock in? Price: I’m offended by the insinuation, Senator. Warren: Well, let me just read what you did. You may be offended, but here’s what you did. Congressional records show that after you were personally notified of this trade, which you said you didn’t know about in advance, that you added 23 out of your bill’s 24 co-sponsors; that also after you were notified of this stock transaction, you sent a letter to CMS, calling on them to cease all current and future planned mandatory initiatives under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; and just so there was no misunderstanding about who you were trying to help, you specifically mentioned— Unknown Speaker: Your two minutes are up, Senator Warren. Thank you. Warren: —hip and knee replacement.
  • 2:58:20 Senator Johnny Isakson: This is very important for us to all understand under the disclosure rules that we have and the way it operates, any of us could make the mistakes that are being alleged. I’m sure Senator Franken had no idea that he owned part of Philip Morris when he made the statement he made about tobacco companies, but he has a WisdomTree Equity Income Fund investment, as disclosed in his disclosure, which owns Philip Morris. So, it’s entirely possible for any of us to have somebody make an investment on our behalf and us not know where that money is invested because of the very way it works. I don’t say that to, in any way, embarrass Mr. Franken but to make a point that any one of us who have mutual funds or investment managers or people who do that, it’s entirely possible for us not to know, and to try and imply that somebody’s being obfuscating something or in otherwise denying something that’s a fact, it’s just not the fair thing to do, and I just wanted to make that point. Senator Al Franken: This is different than mutual funds. Isakson: It’s an investment in Philip Morris. Unknown Speaker: Alright. Unknown Speaker: Thank you. Warren: And my question was about what do you do after he had notice. Unknown Speaker: Senator Warren, your time has been generously… Senator Kaine.
  • 3:21:09 Senator Tim Kaine: Do you agree with the president-elect that the replacement for the Affordable Care Act must ensure that there is insurance for everybody? Tom Price: I have stated it here and— Kaine: Right. Price: —always that it’s incredibly important that we have a system that allows for every single American to have access to the kind of coverage that they need and desire. Kaine: And he’s—
  • 3:31:52 Senator Patty Murray: You admitted to me in our meeting that you, in your own words, talked with Congressman Collins about Innate Immuno. This inspired you to you, in your own words, study the company and then purchase its stock, and you did so without a broker. Yes or no. Tom Price: No. Murray: Without a broker. Price: I did not. Murray: You told me that you did this one on your own without the broker. Yes? Price: No, I did it through a broker. I directed the broker to purchase the stock, but I did it through a broker. Murray: You directed the broker to purchase particularly that stock. Price: That's correct. Murray: Yeah.
  • 3:34:42 Senator Patty Murray: Will you commit to ensuring all 18 FDA-approved methods of contraception continue to be covered so that women do not have to go back to paying extra costs for birth control? Tom Price: What I will commit to and assure is that women and all Americans need to know that we believe strongly that every single American ought to have access to the kind of coverage and care that they desire and want.
  • 3:36:38 Senator Patty Murray: The Office of Minority Health was reauthorized as part of the ACA. So will you commit to maintaining and supporting this office and its work? Tom Price: I will commit to be certain that minorities in this country are treated in a way that makes certain—makes absolutely certain—that they have access to the highest-quality care. Murray: So you will not commit to the Office of Minority Health being maintained. Price: I think it’s important that we think about the patient at the center of all this. Our commitment, my commitment, to you is to make certain that minority patients and all patients in this country have access to the highest-quality care. Murray: But in particular—so you won’t commit to the Office of Minority— Price: We—Look, there are different ways to handle things. I can’t commit to you to do something in a department that one, I’m not in—I haven’t gotten it yet— Murray: But you will be. Price: —and— Murray: You will be, and— Price: Let me put forward a possible position that I might find myself in. The individuals within the department come to me and they say, we’ve got a great idea for being able to find greater efficiencies within the department itself, and it results in merging this agency and that agency— Murray: I think—I think that— Price: —and we’ll call it something else. Murray: Yeah. I—okay. Price: And we will address the issues of minority health— Murray: I just have a minute left, and I hear your answer. Price: —in a big, big way— Murray: You’re not committed, okay. Price: —and make certain that it is responsive to patients.

Part 2

  • 14:50 Senator Ron Wyden: Congressman Price owns stock in an Australian biomedical firm called Innate Immunotherapeutics. His first stock purchase came in 2015 after consulting Representative Chris Collins, the company’s top shareholder and a member of its board. In 2016 the congressman was invited to participate in a special stock sale called a private placement. The company offered the private placement to raise funds for testing on an experimental treatment it intends to put up for FDA approval. Through this private placement, the congressman increased his stake in the company more than 500 percent. He has said he was unaware he paid a price below market value. It is hard to see how this claim passes the smell test. Company filings with the Australia’s stock exchange clearly state that this specific private placement would be made at below-market prices. The treasury department handbook on private placement states, and I will quote, they “are offered only to sophisticated investors in a nonpublic manner.” The congressman also said last week he directed the stock purchase himself, departing from what he said was typical practice. Then, there’s the matter of what was omitted from the congressman’s notarized disclosures. The congressman’s stake in Innate is more than five times larger than the figure he reported to ethic’s officials when he became a nominee. He disclosed owning less than $50,000 of Innate stock. At the time the disclosure was filed, by my calculation, his shares had a value of more than $250,000. Today his stake is valued at more than a half million dollars. Based on the math, it appears that the private placement was excluded entirely from the congressman’s financial disclosure. This company’s fortunes could be affected directly by legislation and treaties that come before the Congress.
  • 30:49 Senator Orrin Hatch: First, is there anything that you are aware of in your background that might present a conflict of interest with the duties of the office to which you have been nominated? Tom Price: I do not.
  • 51:36 Senator Ron Wyden: Will you commit to not implementing the order until the replacement plan is in place? Tom Price: As I mentioned, Senator, what I commit to you and what I commit to the American people is to keep patients the center of healthcare, and what that means to me is making certain that every single American has access to affordable health coverage that will provide the highest-quality healthcare that the world can provide.
  • 1:24:34 Senator Richard Burr: Are you covered by the STOCK Act, legislation passed by Congress that requires you and every other member to publicly disclose all sales and purchases of assets within 30 days? Tom Price: Yes, sir. Burr: Now, you’ve been accused of not providing the committee of information related to your tax and financial records that were required of you. Are there any records you have been asked to provide that you have refused to provide? Price: None whatsoever. Burr: So all of your records are in. Price: Absolutely. Burr: Now, I’ve got to ask you, does it trouble you at all that as a nominee to serve in this administration that some want to hold you to a different standard than you as a member of Congress, and I might say the same standard that they currently buy and sell and trade assets on? Does it burn you that they want to hold you to a different standard now that you’re a nominee than they are as a member? Price: Well, I—we know what’s going on here. Burr: Oh, we do. Price: I mean— Burr: We do. Price: It’s—and I understand. And as my wife tells me, I volunteered for this, so…
  • 1:26:49 Senator Richard Burr: As the nominee and hopefully—and I think you will be—the secretary of HHS, what are the main goals of an Obamacare replacement plan? Tom Price: Main goals, as I mentioned, are outlined in those principles, that is imperative that we have a system that’s accessible for every single American; that’s affordable for every single American; that is incentivizes and provides the highest-quality healthcare that the world knows; and provides choices to patients so that they’re the ones selecting who’s treating them, when, where, and the like. So it’s complicated to do, but it’s pretty simple stuff.
  • 1:34:58 Senator Johnny Isakson: Any one of us can take a financial disclosure—and there’s something called desperate impact, where you take two facts—one over here and one over there—to make a wrong. Any one of us could do it to disrupt or misdirect people’s thoughts on somebody. It’s been happening to you a lot because people have taken things that you have disclosed and tried to extrapolate some evil that would keep you from being secretary of HHS when, in fact, it shouldn’t be true. For example, if you go to Senator Wyden’s annual report, he owns an interest in BlackRock Floating Rate Income Fund. The major holding of that fund is Valeant Pharmaceuticals. They’re the people we jumped all over for 2700 percent increases last year in pharmaceutical products. But we’re not accusing the ranking member of being for raising pharmaceutical prices, but you could take that extrapolation out of that and then indict somebody and accuse them. Is that not true?
  • 1:51:30 Senator Michael Bennet: I wonder whether you also believe that it’s essential that there be a floor for insurance providers. You know, some of the things that the Affordable Care Act require for coverage include outpatient care; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; prescription drugs; rehab services; lab services; preventative care, such as birth control and mammograms; pediatric services, like vaccines; routine dental exams for children younger than 19. I’m not going to ask you to go through each one of those, but directionally, are we headed to a world where people in rural America have to settle for coverage for catastrophic care; are we headed to a place where there is regulation of insurance providers that say if you are going to be an insurance market, you need—particularly if we’re in a world where your son had crossed state lines —there has to be a floor of the services you’re willing to pay for? Tom Price: I think there has to be absolutely credible coverage, and I think that it’s important that the coverage—that individuals ought to be able to purchase this coverage that they want.
  • 1:56:45 Senator Pat Toomey: When we talk about repeal, sometimes I hear people say, well, we’ve got to keep coverage of pre-existing conditions because, you know, we’ve got to keep that. And when I hear that, I think that we’re missing something here, and here’s what I’m getting at. There’s obviously a number of Americans who suffer from chronic, expensive healthcare needs. They’ve had these conditions sometimes all their lives, sometimes for some other period of time. And for many of them the proper care for those conditions is unaffordable. I think we agree that we want to make sure those people get the healthcare they need. Now, one way to force it is to force insurance companies to provide health-insurance coverage for someone as soon as they show up, regardless of what condition they have, which is kind of like asking the property casualty company to rebuild the house after it’s burned down. But that’s only one way to deal with this, and so am I correct: is it your view that there are other perhaps more effective ways—since, after all, Obamacare’s in a collapse—to make sure that people with these pre-existing chronic conditions get the healthcare that they need at an affordable price without necessarily having the guaranteed-issue mandate in the general population? Tom Price: I think there are other options, and I think it’s important, again, to appreciate that the position that we currently find ourselves in, with policy in this nation, is that those folks, in a very short period of time, are going to have nothing because of the collapse of the market.
  • 2:18:05 Tom Price: Every single individual ought to be able to have access to coverage.
  • 2:29:45 Senator Tim Scott: My last question has to do with the employer-sponsored healthcare system that we’re so accustomed to in this country, that provides about 175 million Americans with their insurance. In my home state of South Carolina, of course, we have about two and a half million people covered by their employer coverage. If confirmed as HHS secretary, how would you support American employers in their effort to provide effective family health coverage in a consistent and affordable manner? Said differently, there’s been some conversation about looking for ways to decouple having health insurance through your employer. Tom Price: I think the employer system has been absolutely a remarkable success in allowing individuals to gain coverage that they otherwise might not gain. I think that preserving the employer system is imperative. That being said, I think that there may be ways in which individual employers—I’ve heard from employers who say, if you just give me an opportunity to provide my employee the kind of resources so that he or she is able to select the coverage that they want, then that makes more sense to them. And if that works from a voluntary standpoint for employers and for employees, then it may be something to look at. Scott: That would be more like the HRA approach where— Price: Exactly. Scott: —employer funds an account, and the employee chooses the health insurance, not necessarily under the umbrella of the employer specifically. Price: Exactly. And gains the same tax benefit.
  • 2:58:00 Tom Price: What I’m for is making certain, again, that the Medicaid population has access to the highest-quality care possible, and we’ll do everything to improve that because right now so many in the Medicaid population don’t have access to the highest-quality care.
  • 3:20:50 Tom Price: Our goal is to make certain that seniors have access to the highest-quality healthcare possible at an affordable price. Senator Bob Menendez: Well, access without the ability to afford it, and I’ll end on this— Price: That's what I said, affordable price.
  • 3:28:45 Senator Sherrod Brown: If you and he are working together, are you going to suggest to him that we find a way in repeal and replace to make sure there is guaranteed healthcare for our nation’s veterans? Tom Price: Well, I think it’s vital, again, as I’ve mentioned before, that every single American have access to affordable coverage that’s of high quality, and that’s our goal, and that’s our commitment.
  • 3:30:52 [regarding a disabled child coverd by Medicaid] Tom Price: We are absolutely committed to making certain that that child and every other child and every other individual in this nation has access to the highest-quality care possible. Senator Bob Casey Jr.: Okay, so not an access—he will have the medical care that he has right now or better—if you can come up with a better level of care, that’s fine—but he will have at least the coverage of Medicaid and all that that entails that he has right now. And that’s either a yes or no; that’s not— Price: No, it’s not a yes or no because the fact of the matter is that in order for the current law to change, you all have to change it— Casey: No, but here’s— Price: —and if I’m given the privilege of leading at the Department of Health and Human Services— Casey: Here’s why it’s yes— Price: and I respond to— Casey: You should stop talking around this. You have led the fight in the House, backed up by Speaker Ryan, for years— Price: To improve Medicaid. Casey: —to block grant Medicaid, okay? Price: To improve Medicaid. Casey: To block grant Medicaid. What that means is, states will have to decide whether or not this child gets the Medicaid that he deserves. That’s what happens. So you push it back to the states and hope it works out…
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Design by Only Child Imaginations

Feb 26 2017
1 hour 54 mins
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Rank #16: CD152: Air Traffic Control Privatization

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Air traffic controllers in the United States are a part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) but Congress is seriously considering changing that. In this episode, we examine a plan being developed to transfer control of the nation’s air traffic to a new non-profit corporation. Also, with former FBI Directory Jim Comey’s testimony to Congress dominating the news cycle, we take a trip down memory lane to the Bush years when Jim Comey testified before Congress in one of the most riveting moments in Congressional hearing history.

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Additional Reading References Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Air Traffic Control Reform, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, May 17, 2017.

Watch on CSPAN Witnesses

  • The Honorable Calvin Scovel, III, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Joseph W. Brown, President, Hartzell Propeller, Inc.
  • Mr. Robert W. Poole, Jr., Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation
  • Mr. Paul M. Rinaldi, President, National Air Traffic Controllers Assocation
  • Ms. Dorothy Robyn, Independent Policy Analyst

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 3:33 Chairman Bill Shuster: Today we’ll focus on the need for air traffic control reform, divesting the high-tech service, 24/7 service business, from government and shifting it to an independent not-for-profit entity.
  • 4:20 Chairman Bill Shuster: Everyone should be reminded of what happens if we choose the status quo. It means our system will be subject to more budget constraints, sequestration, and threats of government shutdowns. Sequestration isn’t gone. In 2013 sequestration led to furloughs and reduced operations, controlled our hiring, and training suffered, and the FAA bureaucrats tried to shut down contract towers. Fiscal constraints continue to be tight, as so in the federal budget, and that’s not going to change anytime soon, and it may get worse. We continue to rely on the unstable, dysfunctional, annual appropriations cycle. We have had no stand-alone transportation appropriations bill since 2006, and over that time period, Congress has passed 42 continuing resolutions to keep government doors open. The FAA also relies on authorizing legislation, and it took Congress 23 short-term extensions over five years before it passed previous long-term FAA authorization bill. Under these conditions, the FAA bureaucracy has been trying to undertake a high-tech modernization of air traffic control system for over three decades. It’s not working, and it’s never going to work.
  • 5:52 Chairman Bill Shuster: Some argue that the latest attempt to modernize NextGen is showing some signs of progress, but we all know any progress is incremental at best and only in locations where the FAA partnered with the private sector. And let’s remember the name NextGen was really just a rebranding of the FAA’s ongoing failed efforts to modernize the system. NextGen is just a marketing term, not an actual technology or innovation, but it sounds catchier so Congress will fund it year after year. But the bottom line is there should be far more progress by now. Money has never been the problem; Congress has provided more than $7.4 billion for NextGen since 2004. Results of the problem: according to the FAA’s own calculation, the return on the taxpayers’ 7.4 billion invested has only been about 2 billion in benefits. And we’ve still got a long way to go. According to the DOT inspector general in 2014, the projected initial cost for NextGen was $40 billion, but they’ve said it could double or triple and be delayed another decade. Over the years, the FAA has described NextGen as transformation of America’s air transportation network. They also said it will forever redefine how we manage the system. But in 2015 the National Research Council confirmed what was already becoming painfully clear. According to the NRC, the original version of NextGen is not what was being implemented. It is not broadly transformational and is not fundamental change in the way the FAA handles air traffic. Only in the federal government would such a dismal record be considered a success.
  • 7:40 Chairman Bill Shuster: Some have proposed targeting reforms to fix the FAA’s problems, but that’s an approach we’ve already tried many, many times, starting in the 1980s. Since 1995, Congress has passed various reforms to allow the FAA to run more like a business. Procurement reform in 1995 for the FAA to develop a more flexible acquisition-management system. Additional reforms in 1995 exempt the FAA from most federal personnel rules and allow the FAA to be able to implement more flexible rules for hiring, training, compensating, and assigning personnel. Procurement reforms in 1996 developed a cost accounting system. Additional personnel reforms in 1996 allowed FAA to negotiate pay. Organizational reforms in 2000 to establish a COO position, additional forms to allow greater pay so the FAA could recruit good candidates, particularly for a COO position. Additional reform in 2000 by the executive order to create the Air Traffic Organization. Organizational reforms in 2003 to establish the Joint Planning and Development Office to better coordinate NextGen. Reforms in 2012 to establish a chief NextGen officer. Property management reforms in 2012 to allow a better process for realignment and consolidation of facilities. All have failed to result in the FAA being run more like a business. The FAA has always performed like a massive bureaucracy and will continue to.
  • 9:33 Chairman Bill Shuster: Last year’s bill that passed out of committee will serve as a framework for new legislation, but we are open to change. We want to talk to people and get their ideas, and that’s what we hope to hear today.
  • 9:45 Chairman Bill Shuster: Our air traffic control reform proposal will be based on the following principles: create an independent not-for-profit corporation to provide air traffic services; fund the new service provider by fees assessed for air traffic service; free the new service provider from governmental dysfunction, political interference, and the uncertainty of the federal-budget process; create a governance structure that is right sized and balanced; and a board with sole fiduciary responsibility to the organization—and I need to repeat that—fiduciary responsibility. That’s a legal term. If you’re on a board of directors in the United States and you have the fiduciary responsibility, it’s not to who appointed you to the board; it’s to the board, it’s to that organization is who you’re responsible for, and that’s the law. That’s just not some pie in the sky. People can be removed and be prosecuted if they’re not doing their fiduciary responsibilities.
  • 11:47 Chairman Bill Shuster: Give the new service provider the ability to access financial markets, leverage private funding for multi-year capital projects needed to modernize the system.
  • 12:35 Chairman Bill Shuster: The only way to realize these benefits is to get the government out of the way. As President Ronald Regan said, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem. And we see all over the world people turning to the private sector—whether it’s Europe or it’s Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada—look around the world: countries, governments, are looking to partner with the private sector because they see they do it better.
  • 13:01 Chairman Bill Shuster: Since the introduction of the Air Act over a year ago, this has been an ongoing process of education and discussion. We’ve held over 130 meetings with stakeholders, including both supporters and opponents of the Air Act. We’ve had numerous meetings with members of the House, the Senate, the White House, and other committees. These meetings have been extremely productive and give us new ideas to improve the legislation.
  • 14:20 Chairman Bill Shuster: Air traffic control is not an inherently governmental function; it’s a 24/7 technology service. For those who worry that the system is too complex, I would say this: the most complex thing in the air space is not the air traffic control system, it’s the airplane. It’s the people at Boeing and Airbus and Cessna and the people that build these aircraft—that’s the most complicated thing in the system. And the FAA already oversees those highly sophisticated private-sector aircraft manufacturing, maintenance, and flight operations at arm’s length. We don’t build airplanes today, the government does, and that’s the most complex thing in the system.
  • 16:26 Rep Peter DeFazio: We are now on the cusp of a 21st century system that will be the envy of the world. And other experts—MITRE Corporation, others—say a massive change now, where you cleave the FAA into parts, you leave the most vital thing to our manufacturers—certification, subject to appropriations, sequestrations, and shutdowns—you leave the most vital thing that is important to the American public, which is safety and oversight of safety, subject to sequestration, shutdowns, and political meddling. The only thing that gets moved is the ATO, and the ATO would be moved and essentially effectively controlled by the airlines. I know that the airlines aren’t here today, perhaps because they haven’t looked so great recently in public, and I’d also note that the airlines themselves have had outages 36 times—major outages—36 times since 2015. I’m not aware that the national air traffic control system has had a major disruption, with exception of deliberate sabotage by a contractor who knew how to get the system and the backup system. But the airlines, on their own, with no sabotage, have managed to melt down their dispatch and their reservation systems 36 times, stranding millions of people, so they can do it better, right?
  • 18:15 Rep Peter DeFazio: In terms of funding, the FAA has currently projected, over the next decade, to be 97% self-funded. Unfortunately, the way our colleagues around here and the budget process works, despite the fact they’re self-funded, they can be sequestered or shut down. That’s a simple, simple fix. Take it off budget, make it into a trust-funded program. They are raising the revenues. That’s a simple fix. No, we’re going to cleave it in half, put vital functions over here—still subject to sequestration shutdown—and take this one part and put it over here and say somehow they’re going to self-fund. Now, the question, of course, is, how are they going to self-fund? The airlines have told me time and time again, they hate the ticket tax, they hate the ticket tax; they say, that’s our money. I say, no, it’s not your money; I buy a ticket, I pay the tax, the tax goes to the government; it’s not your money. They say, no, no, that affects the price of the ticket and competition and everything else; it’s a horrible thing. So, if they do away with the ticket tax, there goes 70% of the revenues. Well, what are they going to put in its place? Oh, it’s going to be a per-operation charge or something; we don’t know. Congress will have no say over this.
  • 22:11 Rep Peter DeFazio: See all that yellow? That’s the U.S. That is going to be totally ADS-B, satellite-based, in 2020, with an exception—the airlines that petitioned and been given permission from the FAA for exceptions because many of their older planes do not have modern-enough GPS systems to use the new ADS-B. The airlines again have petitioned that they have a number more years before those planes would be able to use the ADS-B system. Not the FAA, the airlines themselves.
  • 28:38 Rep Peter DeFazio: They can set user fees. User fees, I consider to be taxes. I consider the ticket tax to be a user fee, but we can argue semantics over that. But they are going to determine how the system is funded, which is tantamount to taxation without review by the Ways and Means committee or Congress.
  • 37:00 Joseph Brown: Now, as a pilot, 4 to 500 hours a year, my office is the cockpit; and when I fly, I find a modern system, a high-functioning system, and I’ve seen it evolve over time, right before my eyes. I find controllers that do their job well, I find easy access, and powerful technology. I can file a flight plan from my smartphone and get my proposed route back, before I get to the airport, in a text. When I take off, I have GPS navigation systems on board that allow me to fly point to point all over this country. Couple months ago, I took off out of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and got cleared direct to Burlington, Vermont, 1300 miles ahead. And while I’m flying, I have the veil of safety brought to you by ADS-B, which is in fact deployed, giving me traffic callouts and separation cues and weather in my route of flight. And when I come in for landing, I can pick from 3,000 precision approaches, brought to me by a NextGen feature called WAAS, including at my home airport, which I value tremendously on foul-weather days. So, the bottom line for me is, NextGen is working—it works for me every day—and it’s getting stronger all the time. And from a technology standpoint, I believe we’re on the right track.
  • 43:30 Robert Poole: Business Roundtable group began in 2011, made an initial presentation to A4A in the spring of 2012. We got a pretty cool, if not negative, reception at that point. No one wanted to restart the battles that had raged over this issue in previous decades. Everything changed in the spring of 2013, thanks to the sequester. Controller furloughs closed FAA Academy; threatened closure of 189 contract towers got everybody’s attention. In response, A4A, NATCA, and AOPA all requested new conversations with the BRT working group. And in May 2013, all three groups in the conference room at Business Roundtable agreed that an air traffic control corporation, converting the ATO into a corporation, self-funded, and out of the federal budget was the best approach. After this happened, that fall, Governor Engler and several others briefed Chairman Shuster on the proposal. This was not coming from the airlines. BRT group included a former FAA administrator, a former chief operating officer of the ATO, two former senior officials of USDOT and several consultants. Our governing model, as I said, was patterned after Nav Canada’s. Their stakeholder board represents airlines, general aviation, unions, and the government plus four other private citizens selected by the stakeholder members.
  • 47:50 Paul Rinaldi: NATCA members guide approximately 70,000 flights per day in the United States, ensuring over 900 million passengers arrive safely at their destination every year. The United States Airspace System is considered the gold standard in aviation community, but that status is at risk. Unstable, unpredictable funding and status quo threatens it. We need a stable, reliable, predictable funding stream to operate our current system and allow for growth in the United States aviation system.
  • 48:30 Paul Rinaldi: We also oppose any system that would put ATC in a for-profit model. In order for NATCA to consider a support of any proposal, it must meet our four core principles of reform. First, any new system must keep the safety and the efficiency of the National Airspace System the top priority. Second, any reform must protect our members’ employment relationship. This must maintain our members’ pay, benefits, retirement system, healthcare system, as well as the work rules in our contract. Third, any reform system must have a stable, predictable funding stream adequately enough to support air traffic control services, growth, new users, staffing, hiring, training, long-term modernization projects. Also, this reform must provide a stable funding stream through a transition period. Fourth, any reform must maintain a dynamic, diverse aviation system that continues to provide services to all segments of the aviation community and to all airports across America.
  • 50:10 Paul Rinaldi: Please don’t take NATCA’s position as a need for stable, predictable funding as to mean the appropriators have not done their job. The appropriators in both chambers of Congress, on both sides of the aisles, have done their job well. The problem stems from lack of regular order we’ve been experiencing for over 10 years now. This lack of regular order has led to stop-and-go funding, many threats of shutdown, and our current staffing shortage. We’re at a 28-year low of fully certified controllers. We have 10,532 certified controllers; approximately 3,000 of them are eligible to retire at this time.
  • 50:47 Paul Rinaldi: Unstable funding has prevented on-time implementation of NextGen modernization projects. NATCA takes pride in our role in partnering with the FAA in developing and implementing important modernization projects. We have successfully worked on many over the years. Unfortunately, all have been impacted by uncertainty of funding. If you just look at FY 2018, as we approached April 28 of this year, the FAA shifted its focus from NextGen to shutdown. We, then, received a one-week funding extension, followed by a five-month funding bill. While we’re elated over the funding bill, five months is certainly no way to plan for the future in aviation. Congress needs to pass an FAA reauthorization bill that provides stable, reliable, predictable funding. Congress should exempt the FAA employees from indiscriminate sequester cuts, otherwise we will see a hiring freeze, reduced staffing, furloughs, delays, reduced capacity, and suspension of key NextGen programs.
  • 52:07 Dorothy Robyn: I am a policy wonk, and I’m a Democrat. I testified before some of you during the five years I spent in the Obama administration—first as the deputy under secretary of defense for Installations and Environment and then as the GSA Public Buildings commissioner, following the scandal at GSA. Previously, I spent eight years on President Clinton’s White House economic team, where, during his second term, I was the point person on aviation and air traffic control, among other issues. A policy focus I maintained after leaving the White House, first at Brookings and then as an economic consultant. The first point I want to make this morning is that corporatization of the air traffic control system is not a radical idea, nor is it a Republican idea. The Clinton administration tried unsuccessfully to do this in 1995 with its proposal to create a self-supporting government corporation—USATS—which would be run by a CEO and a board and regulated at arms’ length by the FAA. At the time, only four countries had corporatized their air traffic control system; now, more than 60 other countries have done so.
  • 53:40 Dorothy Robyn: Air traffic control is not an inherently governmental function; it is not inherently governmental. Keeping planes safely separated is complex and safety-critical, but it is a purely operational process that follows well-established rules. Like running an airline or manufacturing a Boeing 787, air traffic control can be performed by a non-governmental entity as long as it is subject to oversight by FAA safety regulators whose job is inherently governmental.
  • 54:50 Dorothy Robyn: Is it a monopoly? Yes, at least for now, but the telephone system was a monopoly for many years, and we didn’t have the government operate that.
  • 55:03 Dorothy Robyn: The current arrangement is flawed on safety grounds. This is important. Echoing safety experts worldwide, ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has long called for the air traffic control regulator to be independent of the operation it regulates in order to avoid conflicts of interest. We are one of the only industrial nations in which the same agency both regulates and operates the air traffic control system.
  • 1:06:00 Rep Peter DeFazio: So, let’s see, if I think about it, funding, sequestration, shutdowns—that all has to do with Congress. So if we had the FAA with its current funding sources, 97% projected over the next 10 years, so just a few efficiencies would get us to 100% self-funded, without meddling, exempt them from sequestration and shutdowns, would that solve many of your concerns—I’m not saying all—but would that solve many of your concerns, Mr. Rinaldi? Paul Rinaldi: Yes.
  • 1:07:01 Peter DeFazio: Who would be responsible if the ATC failed financially in this country? Joseph Brown: Well, that’s one of my risk calculus when I think about this problem. The day the assets move out of the public sector and into the private sector, we’ve moved the essence of the system and the people with it. And there’s no way we can spend one day without that system full functioning and healthy and thriving. And so all the financial risk accrues to the people, regardless of where that monopoly reports. DeFazio: So, too big to fail. Brown: Too big to fail is my concern.
  • 1:10:45 Joseph Brown: First, you have to invent and deploy the technology, which has generally been the FAA’s purpose, but then the user community has to equip and in many cases change equipment to experience the benefits, and that’s exactly where we are right now, and that’s why there’s an inflection point coming up. We have ADS-B fully deployed on a nationwide basis in terms of the ground structure, but only a percentage of the aircraft flying enjoy the benefits because they are not ADS-B compliant. Likewise, that will be true of Data Comm and other technologies. So, where we are right now is the FAA has done a lot of heavy lifting, and the users have to equip.
  • 1:12:08 Chairman Bill Shuster: I would oppose going for a for-profit organization.
  • 1:14:08 Rep Rick Larsen: Can this system be safe and broken, or should I drive? Calvin Scovel: It is safe, of course. And that’s— Larsen: How can it be safe if it’s broken? Scovel: —certainly a big plus for the FAA. Larsen: It seems to me that there’s a fundamental argument going on here— Scovel: Yeah. Larsen: —that says we have to go to privatization because the system is broken that actually controls the airspace. And if it’s broken, I don’t know how it can be safe, and so it would support the privatization argument. However, if it can’t be safe and broken, it would seem to undermine the whole argument for privatization. Scovel: I would characterize the system currently, it certainly is safe, and the record shows that. For a number of years now, no commercial aviation fatal accidents. As far as broken, I would take issue with that characterization. I would say certainly modernization has been lagging far behind where it should be, but it’s not broken. Larsen: Well, that’s good to hear. I’ll cancel my car rental.
  • 1:31:37 Joseph Brown: I don’t think the comparison of our national airspace and management system to Canada is anything other than an exercise in gleaning some observations, but it’s not proper to directly compare. I mean, for sure, in our system we’re driving a much more substantial portion of our economy out of the aviation sector and the airspace that supports it. I mean, we have 10 times more pilots, 50,000 flights a day—it’s a wholly different organization. So for me, when I think about Canada, I believe that they made a choice that they thought suited their purposes with the role of aviation and its infrastructure, but we’re faced with entirely different objectives here, and as far as I’m concerned, the system that we’ve been living in has done a masterful job of adjudicating all of the interests of stakeholders, all the interests of our expansive country and the states that are in it and their needs, and so I can applaud things they’ve done that have worked for their country, but I also very much applaud things we’ve done in our country. And I would take exception to one thing Ms. Robyn said, which is she characterized our system as a laggard. That is just false. We have the technology deployed in our system today that no other country can rival. We lead in our NextGen initiative. So I’m pretty proud of where we are, and by the way, I know it because I fly it. It’s not a mystery, and it’s not a theory.
  • 1:34:15 Calvin Scovel: As you know, my office looked at the air traffic control organizations for the other four countries. And we were told by officials in those organizations that they consider part of their borrowing authority to be leveragable or to be recognized by private lenders because, ultimately, should something drastic go wrong, the government would step in behind them. I’m not representing that that would be the case here—that’s your policy call to make—I’m simply relaying what officials for other air traffic control organizations have told us about their systems. Rep Albio Sires: So, in those four countries, they were on the hook? Is that what you’re saying? Scovel: Conceivably, they may be.
  • 1:38:50 Rep Mark Meadows: Why would you suggest that the federal government can do something more efficiently than, perhaps, private stakeholders? Joseph Brown: You know, my calculus— Meadows: Can the federal government run your business better than you do? Brown: I would hope not. Meadows: I would hope not either, so why would you suggest that they can do that here? Brown: Well, because we’re talking about a range of interests here that’s much larger than my business. I mean, my business, I get to pick my product, I get to pick my customers, I get to decide what I think the value proposition is, I get course corrected by competition— Meadows: And it’s efficient that way, right? Brown: Yeah, but the— Meadows: So what if we had stakeholders who were making the same exact decisions that you’re making, with some parameters that are out there, wouldn’t you think that that would be more efficient? Brown: Actually, you’ve outlined my top concern which is that if this organization picks their customers and picks their service level and picks their product— Meadows: But, but— Brown: —they are no longer going— Meadows: But the chairman’s— Brown: —to pay taxes on public— Meadows: —already said that that can’t happen. We have an airspace that is available to everybody. Unknown Speaker: Gentleman’s time’s expired. Meadows: Thank you for [unclear] point. Unknown Speaker: Mr. Brown, you can finish, if you wish. Brown: I believe that I’ve made my point which is that the thing about this enterprise, one of the things that I’m concerned with is that it’s a coalition of stakeholders with a shared purpose which is to serve their own ends. And the thing that I like about the federal role in our airspace today is that is adjudicates an enormous diversity of needs in this community, whether it’s the Alaskan pilot who’s flying kids to school or whether it’s my business in Ohio or air tractors in Olney, Texas, they all have a seat at the table, and this has been demonstrated in this room today. Meadows: Yeah, my time has expired.
  • 1:49:30 Dorothy Robyn: The FAA is two hatted; it does two very different things. It regulates all aspects of aviation, and that is an inherently governmental activity. You cannot write a contract that makes it possible for the private sector to carry that out. It requires judgment calls that the private sector can’t make. It also operates in the air traffic control system. There is nothing government—that is not inherently governmental; that is operational. That is no different than when GSA goes to the private sector and has them build a building. It is not an inherently governmental activity. The idea that, yes, the regulatory part of the FFA needs help. That part needs help. I agree with Mr. Brown. The idea, though, that in order to fix that, you don’t spin off the non-governmental part; that’s illogical to me. That’s exactly what you want to do—spin off the non-inherently governmental parts so that the FAA can stick to its knitting, focus on the regulatory function.
  • 2:23:25 Rep Lloyd Smucker: Can you explain why you believe a regulated air traffic service provider would be outside of democratic oversight? Joseph Brown: It’s my understanding that this would be empowered as a business that can effectively decide what it invests in, how much it borrows, what technologies it picks, maybe what— Smucker: But still with congressional oversight. Brown: Well, are we going to have a committee for how they spend their money and what they invest in and where they deploy pappies and vassies and where they put up the next Data Community tower? Because if we are, why would we carve it out?
  • 2:31:00 Rep John Duncan: I chaired the aviation subcommittee for six years, from 1995 until 2001, and Speaker Gingrich asked me to hold the first hearings on the proposed air traffic control corporation—Ms. Robyn, I think, will remember that—and at that point, I think almost everybody, maybe with the exception of Mr. Poole, was opposed to it and so forth. But the chairman, Chairman Shuster’s done an amazing job and now has brought some groups and people on board that were not in favor of this proposal at the time.
  • 3:11:34 Paul Rinaldi: September will be here before we know it. We will be looking at another possible government shutdown, and as I said in my opening statement, as we lead up to a shutdown, the FAA turns their attention from NextGen or from UAV implementation to shutdown procedures. For the last 10 years, it happens a couple times a year, and we lose this time; and it’s four or five weeks leading up to it, five weeks on the back end of it, and they’re not sure what sequester is going to bring us if we actually do get a budget and do get a bill passed or what type of cuts we’re going to have into the aviation system.
Hearing: Airline Customer Service, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, May 2, 2017.

Witnesses

  • William McGee, Consumers Union Aviation Consultant
  • Scott Kirby, United Airlines President

Timestamps & Transcripts

  • 2:34:43 Rep Dina Titus: We’ve heard all this kind of ranting about how bad the airlines are and all these unfortunate experiences, and yet pretty soon this committee is set to consider a proposal to privatize air traffic control and hand over billions of dollars’ worth of investment and assets to a private corporation that’s going to be controlled by y’all, by the airlines, and then you’ll be able to run it as you see fit. Now, I’m opposed to that for a number of reasons, primarily because of how it’s going to leave customers kind of in the lurch, but my question is, what do you have to show that means you’re going to be able to take over this corporation and do well by your customers from that angle any better than you do from your angle that you are now? For example, there’re questions like, how much is the traveler going to have to pay to this corporation; what kind of things have you done at your airline in terms of routing that might be better that you’ll do through this corporation; terms of investment and technology, management decisions; what have you done about your own scheduling? All of those questions that have seemed to be criticized today, how are they going to translate into your being able to control air traffic control system through a private board? So, maybe y’all could just tell me some of the things you’re doing that would make an argument for why you should control that aspect of airlines as well. Scott Kirby: Well, thank you for the question, Congressman. And we believe that one of the ways we can actually help our customers is through ATC privatization. The worst thing we do to our customers is the long delays and cancellations. And those lead to customer service problems, they lead to the customer that gets to McCarran and is upset, and we want to fix that. And the FAA is a fantastic partner, and they want to fix that as well, but they’re handicapped today by the model, by the model where they do annual budgets, where investing for the future and the kinds of investments we need to make for the future are hard for the FAA to do in the normal course of business in the government. And the kinds of things that we could do to make the process better is, for example, you have more sophisticated GPS technology in your car than we use on aircraft today. We have these systems, and we could fly straight-line routes, but we still fly zigzag to highways in the sky to get from Washington to Las Vegas. We could do things like continuous-descent approaches. So today we’re at 35,000 feet, we step down in each one. It’s like driving your car and slamming on the accelerator and then hitting the brake, slamming on the accelerator—and we burn gas, and we take more time. All of that could allow us to fly shorter paths and get our customers there quicker. And we believe it’s one of the best things we could do for customer service is to reform the ATC program, and one of the best ways to do that is FAA privatization, not because the FAA is doing a bad job—they do a wonderful job—but the process is designed to be difficult and particularly for making long-term investments.
  • 3:58:43 Rep Peter DeFazio: The question would be, well, now if we give control of the air traffic system to the airlines—effective control—four seats on a 13-person board, what do you think that means for customers and efficiency? William McGee: Well, it’s going to be particularly hard felt in the high-density airports and the busiest airports in the country. Now, I mean, what you just said is obviously a critical-enough issue: 17 flights scheduled at the same time. But underlining that is another problem that hasn’t really been discussed and that is the outsourcing—and it is outsourcing; the airlines call it partnering—but outsourcing of mainline flights to regional carriers. Up until recently, I don’t know if it’s still on there, but the Regional Airline Association on its homepage posted about the fact that not only more than 50% of all domestic departures operated by regionals on behalf of major carriers, but in addition they boasted of the fact that most of the departures every morning between New York and Washington, two of the busiest airports, not just in the country but on the planet—LaGuardia and Washington National—are operated by regionals. So, we have to ask ourselves, is that the best use of those slots to use smaller aircraft on some of the highest— DeFazio: So you’re saying that just because you’ve got a small aircraft and basically, maybe, you can follow it a tiny bit more closely, a little bit more closely, but because of wake turbulence, you’re taking up, basically, a slot with 60 people on board versus a slot with 180 people on board. McGee: Absolutely. I mean, I’m rusty on some of these issues; it’s been a long time since I worked as an airline dispatcher. But the bottom line is that, as they used to say, all metal requires x amount of space between it. So whether it’s a large aircraft or a small aircraft, there are differences with wake turbulence and things like that. But the bottom line is, again, are we using—these are public resources, let’s remember. These are not airline resources. The slots, they belong to the public. They’re treated as if they were private domain—but are we using them to the best ability in many ways, not just in terms of safety and efficiency but also in terms of the carbon footprint?
  • 4:01:50 William McGee: And I think we also want to ask, well, why would they do that? Now, the response often comes from the airlines that customers prefer high frequency to consolidating flights. But there’s also another factor that doesn’t get discussed as much and that is the competition factor. In other words, if you have scarce slots at LaGuardia and you’re trying to prevent the competition from low-cost carriers, then use more frequencies out of those airports. Again, these are the most high ensity airports that we’re talking about.
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Jun 11 2017
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Rank #17: CD178: Election Insecurity

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Since the 2016 election, our country has been questioning whether our elections are secure, fair, and accurate. In this episode, we examine the threats to our election administration, both real and overblown.

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes Additional Reading Resources Sound Clip Sources Hearing: Election Security Preparedness, Senate Rules and Administration Committee, C-SPAN, June 20, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Matthew Masterson - National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security
  • Jim Condos - Vermont Secretary of State
  • Jay Ashcroft - Missouri Secretary of State
  • Steve Simon - Minnesota Secretary of State
  • Connie Lawson - Indiana Secretary of State
  • Shane Schoeller - Clerk for Greene County, Missouri
  • Noah Praetz - Director of Elections for Cook County, Illinois

  • 2:40 Senator Roy Blunt (MO): January of 2017, the Department of Homeland Security designated our country’s election infrastructure to be critical infrastructure. This designation began the formalization of information sharing and collaboration among state, local, and federal governments through the creation of a Government Coordinating Council, some of our witness this day are already sitting on that newly formed council. More recently, in the 2018 omnibus, Congress appropriated right at $380 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help states enhance their election infrastructure. As of this week, 38 states have requested $250 million of that money, and about 150 million of it has already been disbursed to the states.

  • 6:45 Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN): So, we have a bill, Senator Lankford and I along with Senator Harris and Graham and Warner and Burr, Heinrich, and Collins. It’s a bipartisan bill called the Secure Elections Act, and we have been working to make changes to it along the way and introduce it as amendment, but it really does four things. First of all, improves information sharing between local election officials, cyber-security experts, and national-security personnel. Second, providing for development and maintenance of cyber-security best practices. We all know, I think there’s five states that don’t have backup paper ballots, and then there's something like nine more that have partial backup paper ballots. And while we’re not mandating what each state does, and we do not want each state to have the exact same election equipment—we think that would be a problem and could potentially lend itself to more break-ins—we think it’s really important that we have some floor and standards that we set that given what we know, I don’t think we’d be doing our democracy any good if we didn’t share that and we didn’t put in some floors. Third, the bill will promote better auditing our election’s use of paper backup systems, which I mentioned, and finally, it’s focused on providing election officials with much-needed resources. As you all know, we were able to get $380 million to be immediately distributed to the state, not play money, money that’s going out right now to states across the country, based on populations. We didn’t have some complicated grant process that would have slowed things down. The money went directly to state election officials as long as the state legislature authorizes it to get accepted and get to work to update their systems.
  • 11:50 Jay Ashcroft: But before we move forward, we should briefly look back to the impetus of why we are all here today: allegations that outside actors threaten the integrity of our elections during the 2016 election cycle. While these are serious allegations, it is vitally important to understand that after two years of investigation, there is no credible—and I could strike “credible” and just put “evidence”—there is no evidence that these incidents caused a single vote or a single voter registration to be improperly altered during the 2016 election cycle. It was not our votes or our election systems that were hacked; it was the people’s perception of our elections.
  • 30:50 Matthew Masterson: For those voters who have questions or concerns regarding the security or integrity of the process, I implore you to get involved. Become a poll worker; watch pre-election testing of the systems, or post-election audits; check your registration information before elections; engage with your state- and local-election officials; and most importantly, go vote. The best response to those who wish to undermine faith in our democracy is to participate and to vote.
  • 1:08:00 Senator Roy Blunt (MO): Should the federal government make an audit trail, a paper audit trail, a requirement to have federal assistance? Jay Ashcroft: I don’t think so. Jim Condos: I do think so. Steve Simon: I think there is a federal interest in making sure that there's some audit process. Sen. Blunt: Well, now, what I’m asking about is, should there be a way to recreate the actual election itself? And I don’t know quite how to do that without paper, even if you had a machine that was not accessible to the web. Jay Ashcroft: I believe states are moving to do that, without federal legislation. So that’s why I don’t think that federal legislation needs to be done to that.
  • 1:23:30 Shane Schoeller: I do want to address one area that concerns Secure Elections Act, that is on page 23, lines three, four, and five. It says, “Each election result is determined by tabulating marked ballots, hand or device.” I strongly recommend for post-election auditing purposes that a state-marked paper ballots, because I believe the opportunity for fraud in electronic ballot-casting system that does not have a paper trail’s too great.
  • *1:32:00 Shane Schoeller: Even if you do a post audit with the machine, how would you know if something’s been compromised if you can’t at least compare the results of the paper ballot. And I think that’s the assurance it gives. Clearly, the machine, when you have an accurate election, does do a better job of counting the ballots. I’m talking about in the case where clearly fraud has occurred, then the paper ballot is going to be the evidence you need in terms of if your system inside that machine is compromised.
  • 1:32:30 Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN): I think for a while people were talking about, well, why doesn’t everyone just vote from home, which is great when you can mail in a ballot, we know that, but vote from home just from your computer, and that would mean no paper records of anything. Could you comment about that? Noah Praetz: I think that’s 100% inappropriate for civil elections. Sen. Klobuchar: Got it. Shane Schoeller: I find it ironic because this is my first term, although I ran for this office in 2014, that was actually a common theme that I heard. Sen. Klobuchar: Right. I was hearing it, and I was—I kept thinking— Schoeller: Mm-hmm. Sen. Klobuchar: —about our state with, they’re not going to keep dwelling on it, with that high voter turnout. But, you know, that involved a paper ballot— voice off-mic: incredible integrity. Sen. Klobuchar: —and incredible integrity. But it involved people—they could vote by mail, and we’ve made that even easier, but they had actual paper ballots that they did, and then they were fed into this machine to count, with auditing. But you’re right. That’s what people were talking about. Why can’t you just do it from your home computer and have no backup, right? Schoeller: Right. And that was one of the things I actually had to disagree when that viewpoint was put forth, particularly in one city that I remember. And even after I became elected, I went to a conference of other elected officials, and there was a group of speakers, and they all were talking about this, and there was actually one speaker— Sen. Klobuchar: Like voting from Facebook. Schoeller: Correct. Sen. Klobuchar: Just kidding... Schoeller: But they actually disagreed, and I went up, and I think I was the only election official that day—this was prior to 2016—that didn’t think that it was a good idea. But I think we have evidence now from 2016 that clearly—that’s a convenience that we just can’t afford.
  • 1:35:05 Noah Praetz: We’ve got a piece of paper that every voter looked at. Senator Amy Klobuchar: Mm-hmm. Praetz: So worst-case scenario, a Sony-type attack with full meltdown of all systems, we can recreate an election that’s trusted and true.
Hearing: Election Security, Senate Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN, June 12, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Adam Hickey - Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division at the Department of Justice
  • Matthew Masterson - National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security
  • Kenneth Wainstein - Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP
  • Prof. Ryan Goodman - New York University School of Law
  • Nina Jankowicz - Global Fellow at the Wilson Center

  • 9:00 Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA): We know that Russia orchestrated a sustained and coordinated attack that interfered in our last presidential election. And we also know that there’s a serious threat of more attacks in our future elections, including this November. As the United States Intelligence Community unanimously concluded, the Russian government’s interference in our election—and I quote—“blended covert intelligence operations, such as cyber activity, with overt efforts by the Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social-media users or trolls.” Over the course of the past year and a half, we’ve come to better understand how pernicious these attacks were. Particularly unsettling is that we were so unaware. We were unaware that Russia was sowing division through mass propaganda, cyber warfare, and working with malicious actors to tip scales of the election. Thirteen Russian nationals and three organizations, including the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency, have now been indicted for their role in Russia’s vast conspiracy to defraud the United States.

  • 39:40 Senator Mike Lee (UT): First, let’s talk a little bit about the integrity of our election infrastructure. We’ll start with you, Mr. Masterson. Were there any known breaches of our election infrastructure in the 2016 election? Matthew Masterson: Thank you, Senator. Yes, there was some publicly discussed known breaches of election infrastructure specifically involving voter-registration databases. Sen. Lee: Are there any confirmed instances of votes being changed from one candidate to another? Masterson: There are no confirmed instances of that. Sen. Lee: And were any individual voting machines hacked? Masterson: No, not that I know of.
  • 42:55 Senator Mike Lee: One approach to some of this, to the threat, the possibility of election infrastructure or voting machines being hacked from the outside is to go low-tech. Some states have gravitated toward that. For example, some states have started making moves back toward paper ballots so that they can’t be hacked. Is this something that’s helpful? Is it something that’s necessary that you think more states ought to consider? Matthew Masterson: Yeah. Senator, the auditability and having an auditable voting system, in this case, auditable paper records, is critical to the security of the systems. In those states that have moved in that direction have implemented means by which to audit the vote in order to give confidence to the public on the results of the election. In those states that have non-paper systems have indicated a desire—for instance, Pennsylvania—to more to auditable systems. And so at this point, resources are necessary to help them move that direction. Sen. Lee: By that, you mean either a paper-ballot system or a system that simultaneously creates a paper trail. Masterson: An auditable paper record. Correct, sir.
  • 1:22:08 Senator Kamala Harris (CA): Will you talk a bit about what you have seen in terms of the risk assessments you’ve been doing around the country? I believe 14 states have been completed. Is that correct, 14? Matthew Masterson: I believe it’s 17 states have been completed— Sen. Harris: Right. Masterson: —thus far, as well as 10 localities. Sen. Harris: And what generally have you seen as being the vulnerabilities— Masterson: Sure. Sen. Harris: —in those assessments? Masterson: Thank you, Senator. Generally speaking, within the election’s infrastructure sector, we’re seeing the same typical vulnerabilities you’d see across IT systems, so managing software updates, outdated equipment or hardware, as well as general upgrades that need to take place as far as what configuration management within systems to limit the damage that could be done if something were to take place. And so— Sen. Harris: Resilience. Masterson: What’s that? Sen. Harris: Their resilience. Masterson: Yeah, their resilience. Sen. Harris: Mm-hmm. Masterson: Exactly. Thank you, Senator. And so this sector is no different in what we see in the work we’re doing with them.
  • 2:15:00 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): But what I want to talk about in my time is the problem of shell corporations, because for all of the emphasis that the witnesses have put on policing and prosecuting foreign influence in our elections, you can neither police or prosecute what you cannot find. And at the moment, we have both a shell-corporation problem, which was emphasized by Mark Zuckerberg in his testimony when he said their political advertisement-authentication program would only go to the first shell corporation and not seek any information about who was actually behind it. I don’t think Putin is stupid enough to call it Boris and Natasha, LLC. It’s going to sound more like Americans for Puppies and Peace and Prosperity. But it’s a front group, and it’s got Putin or whomever else behind it, and until we can know that, we cannot enforce effectively, period, end of story. Similarly, when our election system has these colossal channels for dark money, anonymized funding, if you can’t find out what special interest is behind anonymous money, you can’t find out if there’s a foreign interest behind that money. Darkness is darkness is darkness, and it hides malign activity, both foreign and domestic. And I’d like to ask each of you to comment on that. We’re concerned about trolling. Obviously, that’s facilitated by shell corporations. You talked about general propaganda campaigns. Obviously, facilitated by shell corporations. Campaign finance laws, you’ve called out for a need for effective disclosure. You can’t have effective disclosure if the only thing you’re disclosing is a front corporation and you don’t know who’s really behind it. So, if I could ask each of you three on that, then that’ll be the end of my time. Kenneth Wainstein: Sure, I’ll go first, Senator Whitehouse. And thank you for kind words, and good to work with you again. Always is. Sen. Whitehouse: We were good adversaries. Wainstein: We were. Adversaries who were working for the same goal. Sen. Whitehouse: Yes. Wainstein: Look, as a prosecutor, former prosecutor, looking at this issue, of course you want to know more about the corporations than less. There are obviously First Amendment issues and other concerns out there in the election context, but absolutely, there’s no way to sort of resist your logic, which is we’ve seen the use of corporations in a variety of contexts, whether it’s money laundering or otherwise, but we’ve seen here in the election interference and disinformation context, and a lot of that— Sen. Whitehouse: In fact, they’re widely used in the criminal context for money-laundering purposes and to hide the proceeds of criminal activities, correct? Wainstein: Absolutely. Sen. Whitehouse: So to the extent that what Putin is running is essentially a criminal enterprise of himself and his oligarchs. Why would they not look to what criminal enterprises do as a model? Wainstein: Yeah, it’s meat-and-potatoes criminal conduct. Sen. Whitehouse: Yeah. Wainstein: No question. And all intended to hide the fact of the source of this malign activity.
Hearing: Election Security, Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, C-SPAN, February 13, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Robert Butler - Co-Founder and Managing Director, Cyber Strategies LLC
  • Heather Conley - Director of the Europe Program Center for Strategic and International Studies Former Dep. Asst. Sec. of State for EU & Eurasian Affairs in GWB admin, 2001-2005
  • Richard Harknett - Professor of Political Science and Head of Political Science Department, University of Cincinnati
  • Michael Sulmeyer - Director, Cyber Security Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

  • 7:15 Senator Ben Nelson: First, the department has cyber forces designed and trained to thwart attacks on our country through cyberspace, and that’s why we created the Cyber Command’s National Mission Teams. A member of this subcommittee, Senator Blumenthal, Senator Shaheen, we all wrote the secretary of defense last week that they, the department, ought to be assigned to identify Russian operators responsible for the hacking, stealing information, planting misinformation, and spreading it through all the botnets and fake accounts on social media. They ought to do that. That’s—the Cyber Command knows who that is. And then, we ought to use our cyber forces to disrupt this activity. We aren’t. We should also be informing the social-media companies of Russia’s fake accounts and other activities that violate those companies’ terms of service so that they can be shut down.

  • 18:20 Heather Conley: You asked us what role DOD could play to protect the U.S. elections, and I think, simply, DOD working with Congress has got to demand a hold of government strategy to fight against this enduring disinformation and influence operation. We don’t have a national strategy. Unfortunately, modernizing our nuclear forces will not stop a Russian influence operation. That’s where we are missing a grave threat that exists in the American people’s palm of their hand and on their computer screens.
  • 19:05 Heather Conley: As one of the most trusted institutions in the United States, the Department of Defense must leverage that trust with the American people to mitigate Russian influence. Simply put, the Department of Defense has to model the bipartisan and fact-based action, behavior, and awareness that will help reduce societal division. This is about leadership, it’s about protecting the United States, and as far as I can see, that is in the Department of Defense job description.
Hearing: Cybersecurity of Voting Machines, House Oversight Subcommittee and Government Reform Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs, C-SPAN, November 29, 2017.

Witnesses:

  • Christopher Krebs - Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary National Protection & Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security
  • Tom Schedler - Secretary of State of Louisiana
  • Edgardo Cortes - Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections
  • Matthew Blaze - Associate Professor, Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania

  • 4:24 Representative Robin Kelly (IL): In September of this year, DHS notified 21 states that hackers affiliated with the Russian government breached or attempted to breach their election infrastructure. In my home state of Illinois, the hackers illegally downloaded the personal information of 90,000 voters and attempted to change and delete data. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful.

  • 5:05 Representative Robin Kelly (IL): Earlier this year, researchers at the DEF CON conference successfully hacked five different direct-recording electronic voting machines, or DREs, in a day. The first vulnerabilities were discovered in just 90 minutes. Even voting machines not connected to the Internet still contained physical vulnerabilities like USB ports that can be used to upload malware. Alarmingly, many DREs lack the ability to allow experts to determine that they have been hacked. Despite these flaws, DREs are still commonly used. In 2016, 42 states used them. They were more than a decade old, with some running outdate software that is no longer supported by the manufacturer.
  • 20:30 Tom Schedler: In terms of voting-machine security, remember that with the passage of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, states were required to purchase at least one piece of accessible voting equipment for each polling place.
  • 23:55 Edgardo Cortes: Virginia has twice has been put in the unfortunate position of having to decertify voting equipment and transition to new equipment in a condensed timeframe, based on security concerns of previously used DREs. These steps outlined in detail in my written testimony were not taken lightly. They place a financial and administrative stress on the electoral system. They were, however, essential to maintain the public’s trust and the integrity of Virginia elections. The November 2017 general election was effectively administered without any reported voting-equipment issues. Thanks to the ongoing partnership between the state, our hardworking local election officials, and our dedicated voting-equipment vendors, the transition to paper-based voting systems on a truncated time line was incredibly successful and significantly increased the security of the election.
  • 25:45 Edgardo Cortes: To ensure the use of secure voting equipment in the future, Congress should require federal certification of all voting systems used in federal elections. This is currently a voluntary process. Federal certification should also be required for electronic poll books, which currently are not subject to any federal guidelines.
  • 28:20 Matthew Blaze: Virtually every aspect of our election process, from voter registration to ballot creation to casting ballots and then to counting and reporting election results, is today controlled in some way by software. And unfortunately, software is notoriously difficult to secure, especially in large-scale systems such as those used in voting. And the software used in elections is really no exception to this. It’s difficult to overstate how vulnerable our voting infrastructure that’s in use in many states today is, particularly to compromise by a determined and well-funded adversary. For example, in 2007 our teams discovered exploitable vulnerabilities in virtually every voting-system component that we examined, including backend election-management software as well as particularly DRE voting terminals themselves. At this year’s DEF CON event, we saw that many of the weaknesses discovered in 2007, and known since then, not only are still present in these systems but can be exploited quickly and easily by non-specialists who lack access to proprietary information such as source code.
  • 38:40 Matthew Blaze: The design of DRE systems makes their security dependent not just on the software in the systems but the hardware’s ability to run that software correctly and to protect against malicious software being loaded. So an unfortunate property of the design of DRE systems is that we’ve basically given them the hardest possible security task. Any flaw in a DRE machine’s software or hardware can become an avenue of attack that potentially can be exploited. And this is a very difficult thing to protect. Representative Gary Palmer: Do we need to go to, even if we have some electronic components to back it up with paper ballots because your fallback position is always to open the machine and count the ballots? Blaze: That’s right. So, precinct-counted optical-scan systems also depend on software, but they have the particular safeguard, but there is a paper artifact of the voter’s true vote that can be used to determine the true election results. DRE, paperless DRE systems don’t have that property, and so we’re completely at the mercy of the software and hardware.
  • 47:00 Christopher Krebs: When you characterize these things as attacks, I think that is perhaps overstating what may have happened in the 21 states, as was mentioned, over the course of the summer. The majority of the activity was simple scanning. Scanning happens all the time. It’s happening right now to a number of probably your websites. Scanning is a regular activity across the web. I would not characterize that as an attack. It’s a preparatory step.
  • 58:15 Matthew Blaze: There is no fully reliable way to audit these kinds of systems. We may get lucky and detect some forensic evidence, but ultimately the design of these systems precludes our ability to do a conclusive audit of the voter’s true intent. That’s why paperless systems really need to be phased out in favor of things like optical-scan paper ballots that are counted at the precinct but backed by an artifact of the voter’s true intent.
  • 1:02:42 Tom Schedler: The system that we’re looking at, we’re not out for bid yet, would be one that would produce, even though you would vote on an electronic machine, it would produce an actual paper ballot that you could hold in your hand—Representative Paul Mitchell (MI): My concern with that— Schedler: —and then cast ballot only with that point when you put it into a secure box. Rep. Mitchell: My concern with that, and Dr. Blaze makes the point, is that if you produce a paper result after you put something into the machine, if in fact the machine is tampered with, you could in fact end up with just confirming the tampered information. Schedler: Yes, sir.
Speech: Hillary Clinton on National Security and the Islamic State, Council on Foreign Relations, November 19, 2015.
  • 12:35 Hillary Clinton: So we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well. To support them, we should immediately deploy the special operations force President Obama has already authorized and be prepared to deploy more as more Syrians get into the fight, and we should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units. Our increased support shoul