News Digest – October 2, 2017

Healthcare

Obamacare

  • Democrats see sabotage in Obamacare web outages, fearing Trump will let the law ‘implode’ after repeal failure.  Rep. Cummings: “It is unclear why the Trump administration needs so many more outages to maintain the site this year — after the enrollment period was shortened — and why the administration designated the first day of open enrollment season to conduct purportedly regular, non-urgent maintenance.”

Taxes

Republican leaders on Wednesday released a nine-page framework for slashing tax rates for the wealthy, the middle class, and businesses, but failed to say how the plan would avoid adding trillions of dollars to the national debt.  The Republican plan draws from many sources, including a proposal by Senator Cardin.

Muslim ban 3.0

The Trump administration announced new restrictions on visitors from eight countries, an expansion of an existing travel ban that triggered litigation over security, immigration, and discrimination.  Senator Cardin called the latest effort an “attempt to repackage [Trump’s] Muslim ban” that “won’t work.”

Russia

  • Cyber security analysts believe Russia was behind a social media ad that targeted Baltimore users in the months after the 2015 riots as part of a broader effort to sow discontent and deepen racial tension. Senator Van Hollen called the news “deeply troubling,” and Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7) urged Facebook to “vigorously . . . strengthen its advertising policies.”  
  • Meanwhile, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman won the unanimous support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.  Senator Cardin praised Huntsman as “very-well qualified” and said he wants Huntsman in Moscow “as soon as possible.”
  • 16 senators and four House members, all Democrats, are calling on the FEC to issue new rules to prevent foreign actors from using online advertising platforms to meddle in future elections.  Rep. Sarbanes was one of the participating Dems: “Time is of the essence here with the revelation that there is foreign interference from the Russians, and there could be from others as well, on these online ad platforms like Facebook.”
  • Congressman Cummings said he was “deeply concerned” about reports that some of these Russian social media accounts targeted his city, which exploded in unrest after Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015.

North Korea

Senator Cardin penned this essay in Foreign Policy, calling for a diplomatic surge for North Korea.

Kushner

  • Tenants of an apartment complex owned by the family of Jared Kushner have filed a class action lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court, alleging that the company charged excessive, illegal fees.  BMore Indivisible’ members Matt Hill and Jean Z. are representing the plaintiffs in this case.  

Private Email Server

Puerto Rico/Hurricane Maria

  • Rep. Cummings and the Virgin Islands’ representative in Congress on Friday called for an “emergency” hearing on the Trump administration’s response to this month’s deadly hurricanes.  “Urgent action by our Committee now could help accelerate the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and make a measurable and significant difference in the lives of American families there,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) wrote.
  • San Juan’s Mayor: “I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”
  • Rep. Cummings:The response has been anemic. Back when we had Katrina I said at a news conference that God would not be pleased with our response. And God would certainly not be pleased with this response.”

Scrutiny over Cabinet Spending

  • Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., leaders of the House Oversight Committee, sent letters to the White House and 24 federal agencies, including the VA, asking for senior officials’ travel details. The lawmakers cited federal law that official travel should be “expeditious” and “by no means should include personal use.”  Responses are due Oct. 10.

Drug Prices

  • Congressman Cummings urged President Trump to take action on $90,000 multiple sclerosis drug, tweeting: “.@realDonaldTrump, Mr. President, you promised to lower drug prices, but companies are charging $87k/yr for a drug YOU own. Please act now!”

Roy Moore

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