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When your actions are questionable, you tend to keep a low profile and hope no one notices your errant ways, right Mitch? MA.

By Tanya Snyder 10 hrs ago

The records also do not show how frequently Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has met with people from outside Kentucky, a state Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has represented in the Senate since 1985.
A trove of more than 800 pages of emails sheds new light on the working relationship between Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most potent power couples in Washington — including their dealings with McConnell supporters from their home state of Kentucky.

Chao has met at least 10 times with politicians and business leaders from the state in response to requests from McConnell’s office, according to documents provided to POLITICO by the watchdog group American Oversight. In some cases, those people later received what they were hoping for from Chao’s department, including infrastructure grants, the designation of an interstate highway and assistance in getting state funds for a highway project — although the documents don’t indicate the meetings led to those outcomes.
The records also do not show how frequently Chao has met with people from outside Kentucky, a state her husband has represented in the Senate since 1985, or how readily she has responded to similar requests from other lawmakers. But at least a dozen of the emails show McConnell’s staff acting as a conduit between Chao and Kentucky political figures or business leaders, some of whom have had prior relationships with the couple.

In one email from Feb. 2, 2017, just days after Chao was sworn in, McConnell’s state director emailed a Chao lieutenant asking the secretary to meet with maritime industry lobbyist Jim Adams about proposed changes to “Buy American, Hire American” requirements for offshore drilling equipment. The lobbyist and his wife, a Kentucky state senator who used to work for McConnell, donated $1,500 to McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign, according to FEC filings.
“The Secretary knows them both well,” McConnell state director Terry Carmack wrote to Todd Inman, who at the time was director of operations at the Department of Transportation. Chao met with the lobbyist the following month, according to her calendar.
Carmack also requested a meeting in April 2017 for Greg DeLancey, the general manager of Taylor Motors in Murray, Ky., a government contractor that provides bus services primarily to the Defense Department. Carmack wrote that DeLancey was “the Calloway county GOP chairman and about to be the first district GOP chair.” Chao met with someone from Taylor Motors in July 2017. When the McConnell staffer asked Inman to arrange a meeting for Jason Vincent and other people from the Pennyrile Area Development District during a March 2017 fly-in, he noted that some of the representatives were “friends.”
American Oversight obtained the emails under the Freedom of Information Act. The group’s executive director and founder, Austin Evers, said they show an unusually close relationship between a Senate leader and a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet — and that “Secretary Chao built a political operation in her office to favor Kentucky.”
“We launched this investigation because we were intrigued by the president’s selection of Elaine Chao as Transportation secretary,” Evers said. “The media and political class identified it as a savvy move to hire the spouse of the majority leader of the Senate. We wanted to see what that relationship looked like.”
DOT said no such favoritism exists, and that any agency “would be responsive to the requests of the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.”
Chao’s office treats “requests from Congress with serious consideration and is responsive to all members and their staff,” a spokesperson said. “She understands the needs of Kentucky, which is her home, and naturally has enjoyed a long friendship with many of the people who are also in contact with Senator McConnell’s office.”
When asked about the propriety of setting up meetings for constituents, a spokesperson for McConnell told POLITICO that “the Leader regularly advocates for Kentuckians with Members of the Cabinet and agencies of the federal government.”
“He has advocated on behalf of Kentuckians his entire career — and that includes both Republican and Democrat Administrations,” the spokesperson added.
At the very least, the emails offer a rare glimpse at the working relationship between Chao and McConnell, who aside from a few confrontations with protesters, typically maintain a low public profile about their interactions together. But other people familiar with the workings of DOT and Congress said they didn’t see anything unusual in a Cabinet secretary responding to requests from lawmakers.
A Democratic Senate aide said it’s common for members of Congress to contact DOT or other agencies on behalf of their constituents and that the department is responsive and accommodating to all.
“DOT will talk to anyone,” said the aide, who requested anonymity because of his ongoing dealings with the department. He said he doesn’t often ask Chao to take meetings because “people know they can pick up the phone and call DOT themselves,” but that on occasion he will “make an introduction.”
Former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, a Democrat who served under President George W. Bush, told POLITICO it “happened a lot” that lawmakers asked him to meet with constituents traveling to Washington, “and then you would meet with them.” Mineta said a request from a member of Congress would carry additional weight, regardless of what state that member was from.
“Of course you’re going to meet with people from your home state,” added a former DOT official from the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about the department she once worked for.
But Evers from American Oversight contended that in these emails, Chao’s staff appear to go out of their way to make McConnell’s Kentucky contacts “feel special.” In one March 2017 email to Inman, requesting a meeting between Chao and the group Kentuckians for Better Transportation, Carmack suggested that if Chao herself couldn’t make it, perhaps “an assistant secretary or 2” could. “That way it is not taking up the Secretary’s time but they feel special,” Carmack continued.
Inman had previously told Carmack that Chao’s office was planning to decline the meeting. But the meeting later appeared on Chao’s calendar for the following May 17.
A POLITICO review of two months of Chao’s calendar over her first 14 months in office doesn’t reveal a particular preference for Kentucky visitors — in more than 100 meetings and phone calls with people outside the executive branch, none had an apparent Kentucky connection.
Still, Evers highlighted two instances when DOT’s Inman instructed McConnell staffers to flag requests from Kentuckians for him in addition to sending them to Chao’s schedulers, “to make sure we take an extra look at” them.
“The Secretary has indicated if you have a [Kentucky] specific issue that we should flag for her attention to please continue to go through your normal channels but feel free to contact me directly as well so we can monitor or follow up as necessary,” Inman wrote to McConnell’s then-chief of staff, Brian McGuire, in an email from Feb. 28, 2017.
“There’s a normal channel and a Kentucky channel,” Evers said. “It would be surprising if there was also an Arizona channel and a California channel.”
And, on a tentative list of staff duties Inman shared with McConnell’s office soon after he started, “Kentucky” is listed as one of Inman’s responsibilities. No other state is included in any of the other 26 staffers’ list of duties.
Inman, who became Chao’s chief of staff last month, was a Republican political operative in Kentucky before joining DOT. He communicated frequently with McConnell staff for most of his first year in the job, until an assistant secretary for government affairs was confirmed.
The email cache is also sprinkled with instances of McConnell staffers referring to meeting-seekers’ personal ties to the couple and their status as GOP supporters.
In one email thread from March 2017, McConnell’s staff describes Hart County, Ky., Judge/Executive Terry Martin — the county’s top elected leader — as a “loyal supporter” and “friend.”
Chao met with Martin two weeks later and again a year later.
She met on March 20, 2017, with representatives from the Pennyrile Area Development District, who had gotten similar praise, and who were interested in discussing their long-running priority of redesignating the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway as Interstate 169. President Donald Trump signed a bill designating I-169, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), into law in May 2017.
In another February 2017 email exchange, Carmack asked Inman to set up a meeting with two Kentucky county judge/executives who wanted to talk about bridge and highway problems in their counties. “Always value your input,” Inman responded.
Harlan County Judge/Executive Dan Mosley, who met in April 2017 with Chao about widening and improving a flood-prone stretch of U.S. 421,said in an interview with POLITICO that Chao was “one of the smartest people I’ve ever met” and that “her commitment to transportation issues” was evident in their meeting. After they met, a Federal Highway Administration official came to evaluate the project, and eventually the  state allocated  $800,000 to start the project, Mosley told POLITICO.
Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, who asked for and, in June 2018, received a $68 million DOT grant for two interstate interchanges,said he met with Chao and asked for her support for the grant at his December 2017 meeting with her. Boone County had been seeking a federal grant for this since at least 2017.
Cooperation between the two offices goes in both directions, the emails indicate. In May 2017, a group of real estate company representatives and public officials from China enjoyed a Capitol tour organized jointly by Chao’s and McConnell’s offices. The group “was thrilled to get the VIP treatment by [McConnell’s] office and were particularly excited to hear that the leader’s office was normally off limits to normal guests,” said Melissa Fwu from Chao’s office, in an email to a McConnell aide.
Oversight groups aren’t just worried about the meetings Chao is granting, however. A new, previously unreleased report from the watchdog group Restore Public Trust questions the 2018 choice of a town of about 25,000 residents situated near the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, as the site of a new DOT maritime gateway office intended to help coordinate between port operators and government bodies to help improve freight movement on inland waterways.
Paducah is the smallest city to host one of DOT’s 10 maritime gateway offices. The nine other such offices are in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Miami.
“This is the kind of stuff the American public hates,” said Caroline Ciccone, executive director of Restore Public Trust, adding that a “prudent elected official” will avoid favoritism “not just because it looks bad, it’s because it is bad.”
But a DOT spokesperson who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the department chose Paducah because it’s “always been a natural hub for regional inland waterway traffic,” given its proximity to four major rivers and the presence of “more U.S.-flag inland waterway operators than anywhere else in the nation.” The low cost of living also made it attractive, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said a strategic analysis, undertaken by the Maritime Administration in 2015, resulted in a decision to close one of two gateway offices in California in favor of one on the inland waterways to support the St. Louis office. Paducah was chosen out of five inland waterway locations that were evaluated.
Deb Calhoun, senior vice president of the Waterways Council, called Paducah “the epicenter of the inland marine industry.”
“Many of the major inland operators have offices in Paducah,” she told POLITICO. “There is a maritime training center. And each year, hundreds of inland marine related companies gather for an annual river industry awards event.”

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Listen· 3:10
3:10February 17, 20198:12 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
Glynis Board
Tariffs announced by the Trump administration have led to a glut of milk in the United States. Food pantries are suffering because they’re deluged with milk and have no way to store or distribute it.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Got milk? Food banks in the United States are overflowing with it, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The cause of the oversupply is the U.S.’s trade disputes. The federal government has been buying up surplus milk to help out dairy farmers hurt by the trade wars, which has led to the glut at food banks. Glynis Board of the Ohio Valley ReSource team tells us more.
GLYNIS BOARD, BYLINE: At Facing Hunger Food Bank, Executive Director Cyndi Kirkhart steps into her agency’s walk-in refrigerator in Huntington, W.Va.
CYNDI KIRKHART: This is the only cooler we have. So this is Kentucky milk, and this is West Virginia.
BOARD: There’s not very much space.
KIRKHART: No.
BOARD: There’s so much milk, they’ve often had to store it inside their refrigerated trucks and keep them running all night. Every couple of weeks since November, Kirkhart’s operation has gotten about 8,000 half-gallon cartons of milk.
KIRKHART: We never have received what we refer to as fluid milk, which is fresh milk.
BOARD: Donations from the federal government are normal, but products usually have a long shelf life – months or years. Milk lasts maybe two weeks.
The dairy industry is already producing plenty of surplus milk, and recent trade disputes with the Trump administration made the situation worse. Jim Goodman is a former dairy farmer who now heads up the National Farm Coalition (ph).
JIM GOODMAN: Twenty-five percent of our dairy exports probably go to China. And probably another 25 percent of them goes to Mexico. Both of those countries put a tariff on in response to the steel and aluminum tariffs.
BOARD: The Trump administration released $12 billion last year to bail out farmers. Ten percent of that was put toward purchasing commodities, like milk, to be distributed for hunger relief.
JOSHUA LOHNES: Whose responsibility is it to get rid of this milk?
BOARD: Joshua Lohnes is a researcher at West Virginia University. He explains the donated perishable food doesn’t come with money to offset extra administrative costs associated with storage and distribution.
LOHNES: It costs the food banks $2 a mile to deliver this, quote, unquote, “free food” across this vast, rural landscape. So they are advocating, you know, with our state legislators and the powers that be at the Department of Ag to try to figure out how to not have all of this surplus pretty much tank their operation.
BOARD: In Huntington, Kirkhart says food banks like hers do get some federal financial support for administrative costs, but it doesn’t match the increases in overhead created by perishable donations.
Still, she feels she has to accept them, despite logistical difficulties, because the need in her region is so great. Two hundred and eighty-five thousand people throughout West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio are food insecure.
KIRKHART: We’re going to keep on keeping on. And I know that we have a lot of love in this community around our service area, and people will help us through because that’s what Appalachians do.
BOARD: Even if accepting these donations threatens her food bank’s continued existence.

For NPR News, I’m Glynis Board in Huntington, W.Va.
Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at http://www.npr.org for further information.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio

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Apparently the M.O. of TOTUS in his work and personal life is to manufacture crises, hype them and then offer a slightly different plan than what was already in place. This is an easy way (lazy) way to do work based on someone else’s efforts and claim credit for it. Taking center stage from your bedroom via electronic means after looking at specific network opinionators ( not news people). NAFTA was working fine but after a year of railing against it and putting the threat of tariffs out there against out long time partners, the new deal is essentially the same with a new name (an election ploy), the Iran accord which was signed on to along with long time allies is still working without the US in spite of administration alternate facts that say the opposite. The mass horde of people streaming for the southern border and requires a wall to stop the drugs and crime they are bringing with them( more drugs and illegals come in at the designated and monitored crossings) and finally a major Tariff war with the Nation of China which has caused major ripples n our own farming communities. What we have in this administration is a cadre of outright liars and extremists who all vie for the approval of a demagogue aided and abetted by a neer do well Congress staffed by too long serving member s who again serve themselves while shoving their gruel of lies and hate down the throats of their avid constituents. The chinks in the tax plan are starting to show for the folks who have already filed taxes and getting less than they normally would receive. The ongoing attack on the Mueller investigation is having little effect since the truth continues to come out in spite of the continued stream of  misinformation from TOTUS’s administration and supporters. This will be reflected in history as one of if not the worst administration in American history and all associated with it will be tainted more than they currently are. It is the sole job of the voters in America to elect better representatives to work for us and that is a hard task since it seems that there are few “honest” and knowledgeable candidates available. The process we have to use is replace as many as we can in each election cycle no matter how long they have been in office. If we make it clear that we are willing to replace them readily then we may be able to get better people to move us forward as a country and not individuals.

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Our National emergency is located at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. Apparently our neer do well Congress abetted by do nothing “Bitch” and “flip-flop Lindsey” have submitted to the “child’s ” whims. It has been proven over and over that the numbers used by the administration are false and inflated. Each and every talking head in the administration is using the same numbers out of fear of the wrath of TOTUS. Increasingly the “Trump base” is shrinking even if many think it is growing. Meanwhile the immigration crisis builds along with the sham international policies espoused by Mike “Pompous”. 2020 is nearing and our National strength is waning in spite of the utterances of Faux news opinionators whose well-being is not being affected by the shutdown. It is their unmitigated ability to lie that gets the attention of TOTUS who reads nothing beyond possibly the “cat in the hat” maybe. The often cited “American People” have one task and that is take back control of the country through the vote, we have a start with the recent elections but the old guard needs to go if we are to make any progress towards the real America we want and need. That is an America for all of us.

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These past 10 years have shown us the worst and best of our Federal legislature. The way it should work is: we have liberal, conservative and several stages between them. If these groups were in office in any reasonable proportion we would not have had the nasty unproductive governance that eventually brought us TOTUS. The radicals on all sides have pushed us to a “them or us” situation that serves the electorate and their backers NOT the oft cited “American People”! These so-called conservatives, liberals, progressives have done no more than confuse most of us to the point that we no longer can distinguish which idiots to support. Personally I like to know which idiot can do the least amount of harm to me. To that end I usually vote independent or Scamocrat but I would vote Dupublican if there were no Bitch McConnell’s or Flip flop Graham’s. These two are examples of legislators who have the public eye and lie each time they speak. It apparently is normal for politicians to keep the truth from their constituents while mouthing what their constituents will accept or want to hear. The real problem became apparent to me when I happened on C-span during a hearing on the “wall”. A Dupublican member of the panel stated obvious untruths and was called on it by a member of the gallery, that gentleman demanded that the questioner (a voter) be removed and not allowed to essentially question his veracity. It seemed odd to me that an “elected” official would want a voting member of the public be ousted from a hearing that affects them. It looks to be the accepted way of doing business with no public input, the same public that put these folks in office and the folks who in their races for election stated many times that they will work for the “people”. How it is supposed to work is that the people who supported these people have a right to question the actions of those they have elected.

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By Rebecca Morin 16 hrs ago
“If you don’t understand the difference between a prescriptive and a descriptive definition, confusion is inevitable. That linguistic distinction helps bring some clarity: there are two questions at issue, 1) what people who call themselves “evangelicals” or “fundamentalists” actually say they are and 2) what those two groups ought to be.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s presidency was part of a higher calling.
“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” Sanders said during an interview with Christian Broadcast Network News. “And that’s why he’s there, and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.”
The president has long touted his Christian faith, and his presidency was overwhelmingly supported by white evangelical voters.
Throughout his tenure, Trump and his administration have pursued a number of key issues backed by evangelicals, such as restricting abortion rights, eliminating a birth control mandate and expanding school choice and voucher programs that would likely benefit private religious schools.
Most recently, Trump in a tweet endorsed a controversial campaign to introduce Bible literacy classes to public schools.
His support with those voters hasn’t faltered despite several gaffes, such as when he mispronounced “Second Corinthians” during the 2016 campaign. The president was also criticized for not saying the Apostle’s Creed or singing some of the hymns during George H.W. Bush’s funeral in December.
Trump’s multiple divorces and alleged affairs have also not significantly affected the president’s popularity with white evangelical voters.

Could it be that the “white Evangelicals” are not as “holy” and righteous as they purport to be? Religious beliefs have no place in the national politics and should be privately held. The diversity of America cannot allow for personal convictions to bend or alter the legal processes of the nation.MA

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Partisan politics arise again, why wouldn’t all of our representatives want to have laws that assure fair and honest elections, and certainly a Holiday where citizens can vote without stressing about getting to the polls to vote is not a bad thing. Again “Bitch” is going against the oft cited “American People”. MA
Alexander Nazaryan 14 hours ago

WASHINGTON — At a Wednesday hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, a sharply partisan tone marked debate over the Democrats’ first new bill of the 116th Congress, a proposal that would make Election Day a federal holiday and institute new ethics rules.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., poignantly invoked the history of racist voting laws. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., loudly argued with the former White House ethics chief, Walter Shaub. There were references to “illegals” committing voter fraud, as well as to “gobs of cash” flowing from Saudi Arabia to the Trump International Hotel. If the rancor over the proposed legislation is any indication, it could be a long and not especially productive two years in Congress, where Democrats now control the House of Representatives and Republicans have even firmer control of the Senate than they did before the 2018 midterm elections.
Named HR 1 because of its legislative pole position, the For the People Act of 2019 was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md. The bill would expand access to voting, in part by instituting automatic voter registration and making Election Day a federal holiday. It would also put stronger ethical constraints on the executive branch, in part by making it more difficult for people to move through the “revolving door” between public and private sector work, and by strengthening the Office of Government Ethics. The bill also contains a section on campaign finance disclosure.
Cummings, the committee’s new chair, called the bill “one of the boldest reform packages to be considered in the history of this body,” adding that it would “clean up in government, fight secret money in politics and make it easier for American citizens across this great country to vote.” Like other Democrats on the committee, Cummings portrayed the bill as an effort to broadly restore power to the American people by diminishing the influence of corporate interests — lobbying firms, government contractors, “dark money” political action groups — and to encourage participation in the democratic process.
It would have been difficult to craft a bill more likely to annoy Republicans. And Republicans were annoyed. In this, they were merely taking a cue from their upper-chamber counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who on the Senate floor called it “a package of urgent measures to rewrite the rules of American politics for the exclusive benefit of the Democratic Party,” as well as a “power grab.”
That language was echoed by many Republicans on the committee, for whom more muscular ethics rules are little more than a means to punish President Trump for being an unrepentant billionaire. And they view any expansion of voting rights as a way of increasing the rolls of the Democratic Party, since many communities disenfranchised today — minorities, immigrants, the working poor — tend to lean left politically.
For his part, ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, blasted the bill as “For the People Who Want Democrats to Win Elections From Now On” and characterized it as rife with “tired” and “radical” proposals. This elicited laughter from the audience, which packed the hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building (an even more popular hearing, on climate change, was being held on the same hallway).
“You laugh, but it’s true,” Jordan said. Seated at the podium some feet away were three stars of the new House class: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They offered their own commentary to Republicans’ statements, often with head shakes or small sounds of disapproval.
Republicans saved most of their ire for the voting-rights section of the bill. In order to make their case, the committee’s GOP members sometimes seemed to willfully misrepresent the facts. For example, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., referenced “tens of thousands of illegal aliens voting” in Texas. He appeared to be repeating a false claim recently made by Trump. Voter fraud has been a longstanding concern of the president, though it is believed to be virtually nonexistent.
Republicans on the committee were also not exactly thrilled with the other portion of the bill, and scoffed when Shaub, the former ethics head, testified that “we now find ourselves in an ethics crisis.” Shaub first served in that role under President Barack Obama and stayed on under Trump for several months months before finally growing exasperated with what he saw as the president’s lack of commitment to the rule of law. Upon his departure, he said that the United States was on the cusp of becoming a “laughingstock.”
Shaub subsequently joined CNN, where he was an outspoken Trump critic (he also enthusiastically assails the current administration on Twitter). Republicans were thus not bound to take seriously his recommendations, including his call to bolster the investigative reach of the Office of Government Ethics and to allow the agency’s head greater power in ethics-related decision. Meadows, leader of the Freedom Caucus, noted that during the Obama administration, Shaub had averred that the office did not need expanded powers.
“How do you have this evolution in such a short period of time?” Meadows asked, growing animated and doing little to hold back the sarcasm in his voice.
“Frankly, I was naive,” Shaub said during the tense back-and-forth.
But no moment could rival Cummings’s evocation of the legacy of disenfranchising African-American voters. His voice rose as he read from and summarized a 2016 federal appeals court ruling that struck down a North Carolina voter identification law, which it said targeted African-Americans with “surgical precision.”
Cummings said that a year ago, as his mother was dying, her last words were: “Do not let them take our votes away from us.”
It was powerful oratory, but it is not likely to boost the bill’s seemingly dim legislative prospects. Cummings and his Democratic colleagues may well pass HR 1, but the bill will meet with staunch opposition from McConnell and Senate Republicans, who appear to be uniformly opposed to the measure. In addition to his comments on the Senate floor, McConnell recently offered his thoughts on For the People Act in a Washington Post op-ed, where he said of the bill, “this outlandish Democrat proposal is not a promising start.”


Court: FCC failed to provide evidence and ignored harm to broadband access.
Jon Brodkin – 2/4/2019, 10:32 AM

A federal appeals court has overturned Ajit Pai’s attempt to take broadband subsidies away from tribal residents.
The Pai-led Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in November 2017 to make it much harder for tribal residents to obtain a $25-per-month Lifeline subsidy that reduces the cost of Internet or phone service.
The change didn’t take effect because in August 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stayed the FCC decision pending appeal. The same court followed that up on Friday last week with a ruling that reversed the FCC decision and remanded the matter back to the commission for a new rule-making proceeding.
Further Reading
FCC stands by decision to raise broadband prices on American Indians

“[S]ince 2000, low-income consumers living on Tribal lands may receive an additional $25 per month for these services through the Tribal Lifeline program in recognition of the additional hurdles to affordable telecommunications service on Tribal lands,” the court’s decision noted.
The Pai FCC’s 2017 decision would have limited the $25 subsidy to “facilities-based” carriers—those that build their own networks—making it impossible for tribal residents to use the $25 subsidy to buy telecom service from resellers. The move would have dramatically limited tribal residents’ options for purchasing subsidized service, but the FCC claimed it was necessary in order to encourage carriers to build their own networks.
The same FCC decision also would have eliminated the $25 subsidy in urban areas, reserving it only for tribal lands in rural areas. The court’s decision Friday, in response to an appeal filed by tribal organizations and small wireless carriers, overturned both of these limitations.
A three-judge panel said the FCC failed to consider that facilities-based providers have been leaving the Lifeline program and provided no evidence that banning resellers would spur new broadband deployment. The FCC also failed to properly consider how eliminating the subsidy in urban areas would affect consumers, judges determined.
The judges wrote:
For the following reasons, we grant the petitions for review. The Commission’s adoption of these two limitations was arbitrary and capricious by not providing a reasoned explanation for its change of policy that is supported by record evidence. In adopting the Tribal Facilities Requirement, the Commission’s decision evinces no consideration of the exodus of facilities-based providers from the Tribal Lifeline program. Neither does it point to evidence that banning resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program would promote network buildout. Nor does it analyze the impact of the facilities requirement on Tribal residents who currently rely on wireless resellers. Further, the Commission ignored that its decision is a fundamental change that adversely affects the access and affordability of service for residents of Tribal lands. Similarly, in adopting the Tribal Rural Limitation, the Commission’s decision evinces no consideration of the impact on service access and affordability. Its decision does not examine wireless deployment data related to services to which most Tribal Lifeline recipients subscribe.
In addition, the FCC “failed to provide an adequate opportunity for comment on the proposed limitations,” judges wrote.
Lifeline is paid for by Americans through fees imposed on phone bills. The $25 subsidy involved in the court case is provided to low-income Tribal residents in addition to the typical Lifeline subsidy of $9.25 per month.
Senator blasts Pai, hails court ruling
The court’s decision was released on the same day of oral arguments in the case against the FCC’s net neutrality repeal.
We contacted the FCC today and will update this story if we get a response. The FCC could appeal the ruling.
“This is another example of Chairman Pai pushing his own agenda over the obligations he has to the American public. We saw it with net neutrality, and we’re seeing it with Lifeline,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a statement Friday. “He comes in with his mind already made up, ignoring the process he is supposed to take to revisit rules and programs. This is not what Congress intended, and the court is right to overturn the FCC’s misguided and unsupported order.”

Further Reading
Ajit Pai’s supporters say he’s gone too far with plan that hurts poor people

Broadband access in tribal areas is worse than the US as a whole, and tribal access is likely even worse than previously thought because FCC data overstates deployment, according to a September 2018 report by the US Government Accountability Office.
Separately from his tribal Lifeline plan, Pai has proposed kicking resellers out of the Lifeline program nationwide, not just in tribal areas. This would greatly limit poor people’s choices, as more than 70 percent of wireless phone users who rely on Lifeline subsidies buy their plans from resellers.
But even Pai’s usual supporters criticized that proposal, and Friday’s court ruling could make it harder for Pai to kick resellers out of Lifeline entirely.

Danrarbc wrote:
How many Ajit decisions are going to end up overturned because in his greed to speed along changes to help ISP balance sheets it turns out he completely ignored FCC processes? With luck, pretty much all of them. Because from what I’ve seen, for the most part, every decision by the FCC since Pai was appointed chair has been anti-consumer, pro ISP, all to the detriment of the consumer. I’m reasonably certain that’s not what the FCC is supposed to be doing


Unfortunately there are issues on both sides and neither party is the “chosen one”. Both lie and the difference appears to be that one has more sympathy for the people than the other and in varying degrees. MA
D’Angelo Gore- FactCheck.org. 6 hours ago

The weeks long partial government shutdown has led to around 800,000 federal employees not working or working without pay. It also has led to some false or questionable claims from Democrats about the shutdown’s impact on a host of federal services.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised “security concerns” due to the shutdown as a reason to suggest postponing the State of the Union address. But 83 percent of Secret Service employees are exempt from the shutdown.
Some Democrats, including Sen. Jeff Merkley, have falsely claimed that the government shutdown affects Social Security and Medicare recipients and workers.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said it’s possible that people who file tax returns “won’t get their refund checks.” But the IRS said it will recall its furloughed staff back to work in order to process tax returns and “provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.”
Hoyer also wrongly claimed that “flood insurance is at risk.” More than a week before he said that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had already announced it would “resume the sale of new insurance policies and the renewal of expiring policies.”
The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22 amid a budget standoff between Democratic congressional leaders and President Donald Trump over funding for his proposed border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Congress has yet to pass seven appropriations bills to fund a number of federal departments and agencies, resulting in the staff shortages.

State of the Union Security
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that Trump delay his State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 29, due to “security concerns” during the government shutdown. But the Secret Service — which is in charge of security for the SOTU — is still operating, with 83 percent of its employees exempt from the shutdown.

Pelosi wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to Trump that he might consider waiting to give the annual address to Congress until the government was open or submitting the address in writing. She wrote: “In September 2018, Secretary Nielsen designated State of the Union Addresses as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), recognizing the need for ‘the full resources of the Federal Government to be brought to bear’ to ensure the security of these events.”
She said the Secret Service, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, was designated “the lead federal agency” responsible for the security for the speech. “However, both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now – with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” she said, adding that these “security concerns” were the reason she was suggesting a delay.
DHS is affected by the shutdown. Employees who are not considered essential aren’t working, and those who are working aren’t getting a paycheck. But the vast majority of Secret Service employees are essential workers.
In a Dec. 17, 2018, report titled “Procedures Relating to a Lapse in Appropriations,” DHS said that an estimated 5,978 Secret Service employees, out of a total workforce of 7,222, were “exempt/excepted and estimated to be retained during a lapse in appropriations.”
In a Jan. 16 tweet, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.”
In fact, most of DHS’ employees are exempt from a government shutdown. The agency said in its December report that 212,699 of the total 245,405 DHS employees were exempt/excepted from a lapse in government funding.
Juliette Kayyem, a security analyst for CNN and an assistant secretary for DHS during the Obama administration, told CNN that there could be “performance” issues due to “personal challenges” associated with law enforcement employees not being paid.
We leave it to readers to judge whether the lack of pay, and slightly smaller workforce, amount to “security concerns.” But the vast majority of Secret Service employees are still on the job.
Pelosi addressed the lack of pay in her Jan. 17 press conference. “I have no doubt that our men and women in the federal workforce have the capability to protect,” she said. “They’re professionals. They are trained for this. They should be paid for this. And that’s why I said to the president: If you don’t open up government, if that doesn’t happen, let’s discuss a mutually agreeable date. ”
Social Security and Medicare
Some Democrats also falsely claimed that the government shutdown was causing problems for Social Security and Medicare recipients and workers.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, during a Jan. 7 interview on CNN, claimed seniors were encountering problems filing applications for Medicare and Social Security.
“It’s an incompetent strategy,” he said of the shutdown. “It does damage to all kinds of people who are making applications, whether it’s benefits for Social Security or for Medicare or so on and so forth.”
Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, during a Jan. 11 interview on MSNBC, expressed concern about the Social Security Administration’s ability to handle complaints.
“I care about every one of those government workers who aren’t getting paid, who are scared to death about how they’re going to live and by the way, we should care about the services that aren’t getting performed. From keeping us safe in the skies, to food being inspected, to Social Security complaints, to people having housing issues, to food stamps, the list is endless,” Dingell said.
Social Security and Medicare are not affected by the shutdown, according to both agencies.
In a statement to us, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said its operations are fully under an appropriations bill signed into law last year.
“On September 28, 2018, the President signed the 2019 Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act (PL 115-245), which fully funds the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for Fiscal Year 2019. CMS is continuing to accept Medicare enrollments from the Social Security Administration, and provider claims are being processed as normal,” the CMS statement said. “By statute, Social Security processes Medicare Part A and Part B enrollments, and we refer you to the Social Security Administration on that aspect.”
We did contact the Social Security Administration, and a spokeswoman also said the administration is fully funded for the fiscal year by the same legislation that funds CMS.
“Social Security services and offices will remain fully operational, and Social Security benefits will be paid on time,” SSA spokeswoman Nicole Tiggemann said.
We also checked with the AARP, the nation’s largest advocacy group for older Americans. “We’re not aware of any complaints on our end,” Greg Phillips, an AARP spokesman, told us. He too said both Social Security and Medicare are fully funded for the year “per the passing of the Labor-HHS bill.”
Tax Refunds
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer questioned if the IRS will issue tax refunds.

“There is the possibility that people won’t get their refund checks [from their tax return], which is about $140 billion, the average refund $2,500 that people are relying on and that spur our economy,” Hoyer said in a Jan. 9 press conference.

But in a Jan. 7 statement, the IRS “confirmed that it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.”
“Congress directed the payment of all tax refunds through a permanent, indefinite appropriation (31 U.S.C. 1324), and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations,” the statement said.
In 2011, under President Barack Obama, the Office of Management and Budget argued that the IRS should not issue refunds during a lapse in funding. However, the IRS’ recent statement said the OMB had “reviewed the relevant law at [the Department of] Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.”
To make sure refunds go out as planned, the IRS said it was “recalling a significant portion of its workforce, currently furloughed as part of the government shutdown, to work.”
Still, some aren’t as confident the IRS will be able to disburse refunds without issue, especially if the agency can’t get enough employees to work without pay. Kiplinger advised its readers: “File as early as possible. If the IRS falls behind schedule due to the shutdown, you don’t want your return at the back of a potentially massive backlog.”
Flood Insurance
In his remarks, Hoyer also warned that “flood insurance is at risk.” It’s not.

On Dec. 28, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, said that it was reversing earlier instructions for private insurance companies not to sell or renew flood insurance policies.
“Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it will resume the sale of new insurance policies and the renewal of expiring policies. This rescinds initial guidance issued on December 26, 2018, to industry partners to suspend sales operations as a result of the current lapse in annual appropriations,” a FEMA statement said.
FEMA previously had said any flood insurance claims would be paid during the shutdown.
The post Examining Shutdown Claims from Democrats appeared first on FactCheck.org.

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It is apparent that our Congress is broken but fixable. Uncle mitch has surpassed our wildest dreams  nightmares regarding politics. His leadership is on par with Iago or Pecksniff . His refusal to allow even a discussion about opening the government agencies and discussing the “wall” at a different time. His statement that he wants to put something before the “president” that he will sign is ludicrous at best and cowardly at least. He is the “leader” of the Senate and should as he wants us to believe knows the law and is pragmatic(?). His statements belie his intentions and abilities while he has put us in a tax situation that hurts the people he so proudly proclaims to represent and spearheaded the GOP in a direction that almost un American and allowing the rise of a radical right and left. There is as TOTUS once proclaimed blame on “both sides” which in my mind indicates that we as  voters need to initiate a clean slate voting initiative which will elect new representatives who can reach a cross the aisle to help ALL Americans no matter where they live in the United States and it’s territories. It is my opinion that the voters have to assert their will on Congress and not the other way around but only if we arm ourselves with intelligence on the issues and their effects on us all.

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a man wearing a suit and tie: McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government

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