The Laudable Pursuit: Earmarks Are Not The Solution
January 19, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Earmarks Are Not The Solution Remember earmarks, those infamous, special-interest spending provisions party leaders used to sprinkle over legislation like sugar to get representatives and senators to hold their noses and vote yes on bills they would otherwise oppose? You probably haven't heard about earmarks lately, thank goodness. Republicans banned them when the Tea Party class came to Washington in 2010 opposed to the crony corruption. Who can forget pork-barrel embarrassments like the "Bridge to Nowhere," the "Monuments to Me" projects that members got named after themselves, or the turtle tunnel in Florida (yes, it's a tunnel for turtles)? Earmarks were everything Americans couldn't stand about Washington - corrupt, wasteful, entitled, and out of touch. But on Thursday, a House committee will hold a hearing to see about bringing them back. Earmarks were the original Swamp Thing, and just like in Hollywood, Washington is never above an ill-advised sequel to make a quick buck. Earmark fans never left Washington, of course. They've just been laying low, waiting for memories of their waste and abuse to fade. And seven years on, they think they have found a nifty argument to carry pork-barrel spending back into polite company. That argument is the dysfunction in Congress over the last seven years. "See," they say, "Congress can't get anything done anymore. Earmarks may not be great, but they are the industrial lubricant of the sausage-making factory that is Congress, and bringing them back will get the machine working properly again." Like many terrible political arguments, it's superficially appealing. Congress is indeed dysfunctional today. And earmarks probably would make it easier for party leaders to buy the votes they need to pass the bills they write. But the real problem here is this conceit that party leaders have a natural mandate to exclusively write legislation. There was a time when one could reasonably argue that, between them, Republican and Democratic elites represented the public. But today, both parties are distrusted, both by their own members and the growing number of independents who refuse to associate with either party. And the institution where they supposedly do their representing, Congress, is utterly despised. That's not because of a lack of earmarks. It's because of a well-deserved lack of trust in our governing institutions, and the people who run them. Earmarks can't bring back that the trust Congress has squandered. Only transparency and accountability can do that. The fight over earmarks is really a fight over two competing visions of how Congress should govern. The Washington establishment likes the current system where party leaders negotiate and write bills behind closed doors, often orchestrating a legislative cliff so that members are left with a binary choice between two terrible options. This system keeps the campaign and lobbying cash flowing through leadership offices and their alumni on K Street. The tough decisions are made in secret without any accountability. But no one likes the current arrangement of government-by-cliff. So, the swamp hopes, all that is needed is a little earmark lubricant to keep the game going. But the fact is that this corrupt system excludes all but a handful of representatives and senators, and so effectively disenfranchises hundreds of millions of Americans. Bringing back earmarks will only make that situation worse. The alternative system would be one of transparency, decentralization, and accountability. Representatives and senators would write legislation collaboratively, in the open, forging popular compromises and taking tough votes. Anytime someone says, "What we really need to do is get everyone in a room to hammer out the details," remember, the Constitution provides for two such rooms: the House and Senate chambers. The reason Congress doesn't work today is that both party establishments are afraid of the electoral consequences of the public actually seeing a free-wheeling debate they can't control. The path of transparency and accountability would require members to do the hard work of learning about issues and forming and defending coherent positions. It would be far easier to just let leadership do all the thinking for them and accept the occasional earmark they can tout to constituents back home. But this superficially easy path is what has led us to the highly dysfunctional and divisive status quo. Earmarks would make life easier for politicians, but worse for the country. That Washington is even considering such a bargain explains why Congress is held in such disdain. Eventually, Congress will reform itself, and so restore itself to its proper role in the federal government and in American life. Earmarks are just one more bad idea we need to discard before we finally face the truth and do our jobs. Just say no to the return of Swamp Thing. Editor's Note: A version of this oped first appeared in The Washington Examiner. In FISA 702, the government has a vast grant of power, a digital-age "general warrant" to hoard untold terabytes of information about Americans Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The Enhancing Educational Opportunities for all Students Act A few weeks ago, parents across the country bundled their kids up and sent them back to school after the holiday break. For some this meant loading them onto a bus that would drop their child off at a nearby private school, walking their child down the street to the local public school, driving them a town over to a charter school, or herding them down into the basement to resume home schooling. While each of these parents had chosen different ways to educate their children, what they all have in common is the desire for their child to succeed and receive the kind of education that will serve as a cornerstone for success in their lives. But all too often, parents who have the most skin in our country's education system get stifled in the federal red tape that surrounds their child's education. Millions of low-income families find themselves trapped in underperforming schools and are helpless to change their circumstances. Parents are torn at what stage to start investing in their child's education, because they can't afford to save for private school tuition and college while still giving them school supplies. Many parents feel like their attempts to give their child a better life come up fruitless. We can do better. But in order to do so, we have to acknowledge some truths about our education system. First, increased education funding is not a silver bullet. Since 1970, the federal government has nearly tripled the amount of money it spends on elementary and secondary education, with little improvement to show for it. Second, Not all schools will be a good fit for all students and parents are most often the best suited to make these decisions. And third, the federal regulations currently in place inhibit parents from choosing and investing in their children's education. This is why I introduced the Enhancing Educational Opportunities for all Students Act this week. This bill would allow parents back in to their child's education by giving them flexibility in how to finance it. This flexibility means schools that parents could otherwise not afford could now be an option. This bill would allow parents to use federal education Title I dollars as they saw fit. That could mean the public school in the child's neighborhood, another public school across town, or even a private school of the parent's choosing. The bill also removes the tax burden that comes when parents invest more than $2,000 a year in a child's Education Savings account. That means parents can save and build more resources that can then be spent on tuition, books, other school supplies, or even college. By empowering parents and giving them this flexibility, we are taking an important step to improve the future of this country. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Above all things, I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, [as] on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty." We can secure that liberty for tomorrow by giving it to parents today. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWg3-oeo0N Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWg3-oeo0N To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jan 19 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: The Truth About FISA Reauthorization
January 12, 2018 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: The Truth About FISA Reauthorization This Friday, the House of Representatives passed the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a bill that proponents claim adds key privacy protections to our nation's foreign surveillance system. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. For example, proponents of the House bill claim that their legislation includes a new provision that requires the federal government to obtain a warrant before searching their spying database for domestic targets. And it is true; there is a new provision that requires a warrant to search the federal government's dragnet databases under in certain circumstances. But this new warrant "protection" also contains a huge loophole that any biased law enforcement officer could drive a hundred million dollar Special Counsel investigation through. Specifically, the warrant requirement only kicks in if the FBI is conducting a predicated criminal investigation. The problem is that Intelligence Community investigations go through many stages, and a predicated criminal investigation is just the final stage. This means that during the first several stages of an investigation, government agents are free to use 702 collected data to spy on Americans without a warrant. And once government agents have collected that information on domestic targets it is very easy for that information to end up on the front pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times. It doesn't have to be this way. We can preserve the federal government's ability to monitor foreign communications and protect American citizens from terror attacks while still protecting American civil liberties. The House bill should be amended to include a stronger warrant requirement. One that requires the government to obtain a warrant before it can access information on United States persons, no exceptions. The House bill should also be amended to end "about" collection, which is the collection of communications that are not to or from a foreign target, but instead are communications that could merely contain a reference to an account of a foreign target. For example, assume two Americans are emailing about current events and mention the name of a foreign target. Currently the federal government is forbidden from collecting this information, but under the House bill they would be allowed to do so. We must close this invasive spying loophole as well. If the past year has taught us anything, it is that the federal government leaks like a sieve and any information that the government is allowed to collect has a good chance of appearing in the press as a political weapon. The House FISA bill will only make this situation worse. Senate leadership must give senators the chance to improve this bill so American security and liberty can both be ensured. Issue in Focus: A Good Start Towards Draining Washington's Housing Swamp One of the primary goals of the Obama administration was to use the full force of the federal government to force red state, suburban, and rural areas to adopt policies designed to change them into urban blue state communities. On the environmental side this policy invasion took the form of punitive regulations against the mining industry and million-acre land grabs that undermined the grazing industry. In education this meant using the carrot of Department of Education grant funding and the stick of No Child Left Behind testing punishments to force local school boards to adopt the federal government's preferred curriculum. And in housing, it meant using Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant programs to force local communities into building dense low-income housing. President Trump has begun to free local communities from Washington's forced conversion. He has rolled back multiple punitive mining regulations. He undid President Obama's 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument. And just last week he delayed enforcement of the HUD regulation President Obama was using to dictate zoning policies to communities across the United States. These are all good first steps, but particularly on the housing front more needs to be done. Specifically, HUD Secretary Ben Carson ought to begin the process of rescinding President Obama's 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule entirely. Promulgated pursuant to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the AFFH has already proven to be an invasive and burdensome mess. While no one disputes that the Fair Housing Act's ban on racial, religious, and sexual discrimination fully fits within the federal government's power, the law's call for communities to "affirmatively further" other housing goals has proven controversial and divisive. Should suburban communities be forced to build high-density low-income housing? Should small towns be forced to advertise their low income housing stock to large cities? Should cities be forced to spread subsidized housing options throughout their jurisdiction? The Obama administration believed the answer to every above question is a strong "yes" and their AFFH rule is designed to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to turn HUD into basically a national zoning board. Defenders of Obama's housing power grab will tell you that federal law already prohibits HUD from mandating that localities adopt specific changes to their zoning laws. And that is true. But HUD has also figured out a way to circumvent that ban and it works like this. Instead of saying "you are mandated to adopt these zoning laws and construct low-income housing" which would be illegal, they say "if you want CDBG funding you must first create a zoning plan. And if we approve your 'voluntarily' created plan then we will give you grant money. If we don't approve your 'voluntary' plan, then you get nothing." This is nothing short of federally funded blackmail. I've made an effort to address this overreach by introducing S. 103, the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act in the Senate (Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has introduced a companion bill, HR 482, in the House). Our bills would stop federal funds from being used to implement, administer, or enforce President Obama's AFFH rule, making it truly voluntary and giving local communities the ability to make their own housing decisions without financial threats from the federal government. Our legislation is a long-term solution to the threat of a national zoning board, but HUD can take a more immediate step by rescinding the rule entirely. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iszsvAXoNK Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oszsvAXoNK To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jan 12 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: A Tax Cut for Working Families
December 27, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: A Tax Cut for Working Families The tax cut bill just passed by Congress and signed into law by the president is not perfect. But I voted for it because it will help working families and small businesses, give almost all Americans an immediate pay raise, and create millions of new jobs. But you don't have to take my word for it. In fact, as citizens, you shouldn't take any politician's word for it. And happily, you won't have to. As in any political debate, there has been a lot of overheated speculation about this bill. Some Republicans who opposed my work with Sen. Marco Rubio to change the bill to provide more tax relief directly to working and middle class said that would destroy the bill and crush its chances to spur economic growth. The argument was silly. But so are many of the criticisms of the bill coming from the left. Some Democrats say the bill will only cut taxes for businesses, not individuals. That's false. The centrist Brookings Institute says the bill will reduce taxes for all income groups in 2018 by an average of $1,600. Some congressional Democrats argued this tax rate reduction plan was the worst bill in American history, apparently forgetting about the Fugitive Slave Act, or the Alien and Sedition Acts. These criticisms are nuts. In total, the bill is estimated to cut some federal taxes by a total of $6.5 trillion over the next ten years, and raise others by $4 trillion over the same period, coming out to a $1.5 trillion tax cut. I am not thrilled about the potential hit to the deficit. But I also believe we cannot tax our way to a balanced budget. The only way to close the deficit is with economic growth and spending discipline. With new jobs, higher wages, and more investment, the larger overall economic pie will give a bigger slice both to American workers and to their government. Over the last two decades, the United States' 35 percent corporate tax rate has cost us trillions of dollars in aggregate international investment. The new 20 percent rate in this bill will help bring more of the global economy to our shores, instead of having us send so much of ours overseas. And of course the doubling of the standard deduction and child credit will deliver immediate, substantial tax relief to middle income families. And the good news is, in a few weeks we will be able to ignore the political speculation and rhetoric and just see for ourselves. Now that the bill is law, the IRS will begin to implement the new rules, and paycheck withholding guidelines will change. In another few pay periods, you either will or won't see a raise in your take-home pay. Over the course of the next year, two years, three years, we either will or won't see more "Help Wanted" signs in business windows. We will or won't see more listings on job-search websites. We will or won't hear about this or that business expanding, opening a new branch or a new plant. The new, $2,000 per-child tax credit - which Sen. Rubio and I successfully fought to make available to millions of additional working families - won't make raising kids easy. But it will make things like diapers, braces, little league, or piano lessons more affordable again. I voted for this tax bill because I believe it will deliver higher take-home pay, more relief for middle class families, and business tax reform to spur hiring, wage growth, and investment. Every Democrat in the House and Senate voted against the bill because they thought it would not do those things. In a few weeks, we'll start to see - in your paychecks, at your office, in your community - who was right. Issue in Focus: They See You When You Travel It's a Christmas motif almost as ubiquitous as Christmas trees or sleigh bells - families and individuals hastily making their way through airports, balancing presents, bags, and children, excited to make their way home to spend Christmas with their loved ones. They're concerned with their flight status, the weather in their destination, their luggage making it to the destination, or the likelihood they will get selected for a random TSA pat-down and any other number of travel-related factors. But in 2018, there may be another worry to add to that already long list of travel woes. At some point next year, the Department Homeland Security (DHS) is hoping to implement mandatory facial scans for all people - American citizens included - who are flying internationally. In fact, they've already rolled out this invasive practice in a handful of airports this holiday season. This new invasion of Americans' privacy caught the attention of Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who's own Logan International Airport was one of the airports selected for the rollout. We wrote a letter together to get more information from DHS about this program. There are a number of issues with this program, including that DHS hasn't instituted a way to let travelers know that they will be subjected to this scan before they fly. But more importantly there is no evidence to show that this facial scan actually works. DHS is hoping to use this technology accurately 96% of the time. But even at that rate 1 of 25 travelers would still be misidentified and improperly flagged by DHS. Additional evidence shows gender and ethnicity increase the likelihood of being improperly flagged. But perhaps the biggest concern is how the government will use this accumulated data and whether or not DHS is even allowed to collect it in the first place. As of now, the information is supposedly only shared with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to check for fraud, and then deleted from the DHS database after 14 days. But in our examination of the program, we have not seen satisfactory safeguards that protect this information from being accessed by third party groups or that show these protocols are actually being followed. The Department of Homeland Security is ushering in this program in an attempt to fulfill a Congressional mandate that says a biometric exit program needs to be in place for international travelers. However, they have gone beyond this directive as the mandate passed by Congress did not allow for facial scans to be used on American citizens. For DHS to do this stands in direct conflict with the Constitution and its 4th Amendment protection of privacy. Until the Department of Homeland Security is willing to address these problems and provide myself, Senator Markey, and Congress sufficient evidence to prove the program falls within the constraints of its Congressional mandate, DHS should provide American citizens with a timely Christmas present - protecting their rights by not only stopping this programs expansion, but stopping it's use entirely. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWUalyfoPN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWUalyfoPN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Wed, Dec 27 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Higher Education Needs a HERO
December 15, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Higher Education Needs a HERO The dawn of the 21st century has brought tremendous opportunities and changes to our economy. Everyone now needs some kind of education after high school. Yet, only four in ten Americans achieve an associate's degree or higher. It's a new game, and it's essential that all citizens can still pursue their American dreams. We need a higher education system that works better for more Americans and their families. We can begin this process by focusing on four key reform principles: accountability, affordability, transparency, and innovation. These principles are at the heart of the Higher Education Reform Opportunity (HERO) Act introduced in the Senate this past week. Affordability Between 1982 and 2007, the average cost of a four-year college education rose by 439%, according to the biennial report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education-and costs have only continued to rise in the past decade. The typical solution to the unaffordability problem has been to increase the amount and types of loans that students can access. However, this solution has actually contributed to the exponential rise in tuition rates. In 2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York issued a study that found "a pass-through effect on tuition of changes in subsidized loan maximums of about 60 cents on the dollar." This means that for every additional dollar the federal government allows students to borrow, colleges and universities increase their tuition by 60 cents, thus increasing the number of students who "need" loans to "afford" college in the first place. The HERO Act would address the affordability issue by streamlining the current duplicative menu of student loan programs into one option and creating one repayment period for undergraduate loans and another for graduate loans. Additionally, the act would establish caps on loan amounts, which would help to keep university rate increases in check and lower the amount of debt students need to repay once they graduate from college. Transparency Informed consumers are a critical component of a free-market economy. Yet when it comes to choosing a good college and major, parents and students are often left to make these life-changing decisions in the dark. The HERO Act would ensure that parents and students have access to information about how effective their college of choice is in helping students graduate on time; how burdened by debt students are after obtaining their degrees; and how successful graduates in a particular major are at obtaining jobs that enable them to pay back their loans. Accountability Nearly half of borrowers today are not making payments on their student loans. This alarming statistic is one of the reasons some economists have predicted that student loans are the next financial bubble. It is time for a change. One promising solution is to make sure that all parties in higher education have "skin in the game." The HERO Act would ensure that colleges have a financial stake in their programs by requiring schools with poor student loan repayment rates to pay a fine. The possibility of a penalty would motivate schools to invest in the success of their students. Innovation Today's post-secondary students come from a range of different backgrounds, from the traditional 18-year-old high school graduate, to the single mom going back to school, to the laid-off worker who needs to retrain mid-career. Meeting the needs of this diverse population means we need a lot more options than we did when current federal policies were first written decades ago. The HERO Act would accomplish this by changing the way schools are accredited. The HERO Act would enable each state to accredit any institution that provides post-secondary education. With this new accreditation power, states would be able to authorize innovative new education options (for example, massive online open courses, competency-based offerings, and certification exams) for students in any learning situation. Today's students deserve an innovative higher education system that provides more and better options to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of today's job market. The HERO Act is an important first step toward building that new system. It would open the door to the American Dream for the millions of Americans who are pursuing it. Higher Education Reform Opportunity Act Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The Rise in Unwed Childbearing Too often, legislators pass bills that seem to be solutions in search of problems. But those problems are rarely as straightforward as they appear to be. This is why my staff at the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) have worked so tirelessly on the Social Capital Project - a multi-year research initiative that explores the evolving nature and importance of our associational life, specifically why the health of those associational relationships seems so compromised. And of all the relationships people have in their lives, the most important and formative is the one children have with their parents. This relationship is the foundation of a healthy associational life, which is why the JEC's most recent study focused on parent/child relationships and how they've changed in the last few generations. As many of you already know, there has been a significant uptick in children born to unwed parents since 1960. And numerous studies show children of stable, married couples outperform children born to single parents, especially when it comes to laying the foundation for engagement in associational life. This isn't to say a child born to single mother or father will necessarily face more challenges in life, or that a child born to a married mother and father will automatically succeed. But there is a statistically significant pattern that shows having two stable parents in a committed relationship does give a child a leg up. Yet, in the past few decades, we've shifted from this two-parent model of child-bearing. In 1960, just 5.3% of children were born to single mothers. As of 2008, that number jumped to 40%, and that number is even higher for children born to mothers who are under 30. This means 35% more of the children born today are born into a situation that disadvantages them. While it would be simple to point to increased sexual activity as the obvious cause, our research found two even larger factors: 1) there are fewer married women, and 2) the cultural norm often referred to as the "shotgun" marriage has all but disappeared. The causes for these two trends are also very complicated, but they appear to be a result of an increase in affluence and opportunity in society as a whole. Rising affluence and opportunity is absolutely something we should celebrate, but that doesn't negate the fact that the uptick in non-married births is something that should be addressed. Problems are rarely as straightforward as they appear to be. I am proud of the work my staff on the JEC is doing to shine a light on the complexities of this issue, and we will continue to pursue this line of inquiry to ensure all children are born with the leg up they deserve. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isEKjO7o5N Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osEKjO7o5N To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Dec 15 · lee

Staying Connected
December 12, 2017 Live Town Hall on Wednesday The most intimate and central form of associational life is the family-an institution with primary responsibility for nurturing children and transmitting values, knowledge, aspirations, and skills to subsequent generations. A healthy family life is the foundation for a healthy associational life. Children can overcome the negative consequences of being raised in unhappy or unstable families, but many start out the game of life already behind in crucial ways. More profoundly, weakened family life portends a diminished ability of a people to promote and nurture the civil society and pro-social norms that facilitate happiness and prosperity. This week the Social Capital Project has released a new report titled Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage: The Rise in Unwed Childbearing. I look forward to discussing and answering questions about this important topic. Sign up to be part of this event and join the discussion. Join me in an upcoming Access Live event on December 13th at 5:00 p.m. MT. To receive a phone call at the time of the event, you can register online now. Those who want to stream the event live on their computer or mobile device can use this link when the event starts: lee.senate.gov/live I look forward to having you join me for this event. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 Ogden James V. Hansen Federal Building 324 25th Street Suite 1410 Ogden, Utah 84401 Phone: 801-392-9633 Fax: 801-392-9630 SaveSaveSaveSaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iscdY5ioNv Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oscdY5ioNv To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Tue, Dec 12 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: A Big Win for Utah’s Rural Communities
December 08, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: A Big Win for Utah's Rural Communities President Trump won the White House for many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is that rural Americans are sick and tired of rich coastal elites telling them how to live their lives. President Trump may not be able to fulfill all of his campaign promises, but he has already delivered for Utah's rural communities by coming to our state and limiting President Obama's Bears Ears National Monument and President Clinton's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Make no mistake: President Obama's Bears Ears monument was a project pushed and funded by wealthy East and West Coast liberals. The Hewlett and Packard foundations, as well as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, gave tens of millions of dollars to supposedly "grassroots" Native American groups to campaign for a new monument. But local Native Americans-the people who actually live near Bears Ears and use the land-did not take the money. "The whole tone of it seems like the tribes are generally being used as pawns for the environmental groups to get what they really want," Blue Mountain Dine' Vice President Byron Clarke told the Deseret News. "They are being played. It is somewhat insulting." "It seems pretty clear that the federal government over time tends to close down access," Clarke later told me. "So just as a local user of the land, I have to ask myself what's wrong with how we are using it right now? We can go hunt now, we can go fishing and cut wood now and it's pristine." Clarke is right. The federal government does restrict access to land where a national monument has been declared. That is the entire point of the Antiquities Act: to preserve cultural treasures on federal public land by restricting access to the land. That is also why the Antiquities Act requires that monument designations be "confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and maintenance of the objects to be protected." Neither President Clinton nor President Obama respected that limitation. Instead of responsibly working with local communities to identify just the protections needed to preserve cultural sites in San Juan and Garfield counties, they made million acre designations that were designed to transform the economic life of surrounding residents. "Creation of jobs for tourism will be a benefit to the community versus those that could be lost by some of the mineral and energy jobs," Clarke told me. "I think for a lot of Navajos we are skilled people, we have skills other than restaurant workers and gas station attendants. We are engineers. We are heavy equipment operators. We are welders. Those are good jobs rather than the tourism type jobs which tend to be seasonal." Ranching families also are hit hard by the restrictions that come with monument designations. After land-use restrictions at the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument kicked in, Garfield County ranchers could no longer bring water in to their cattle. Their ability to fence in water resources and maintain roads was also limited. Many families were forced to signigicantly reduce their herds, sometimes by half. The corporations pushing for monument land-use restrictions, like Patagonia and REI, claim that the monuments will create tourism jobs for the residents of Garfield and San Juan county. And they are right: the monuments do create tourism jobs. But at what cost? Moab resident Jon Kovash warns in the High Country Times that "Tourism also brings sprawling growth, crappy jobs, even-higher rents and home prices, and an increasingly unmanageable crush of visitors and traffic." Maybe the rich coastal liberals and their corporate pals are right. Maybe tourism is the answer for economic development in rural America. But shouldn't that choice be made by the residents who live there? Shouldn't the people who actually live near the land decide how best to use it? And maybe, just maybe, the same people who used land restrictions in their own cities to create sky-high housing prices and crushing inequality shouldn't be in the business of telling other people how to use their land. More needs to be done to protect Utah's rural communities from future Democratic presidents. We need Congress to give Utah the same Antiquities Act protections that Alaska and Wyoming have. But until then, President Trump's monument reductions are a good first step. Utah thanks him. The Case for Expanding the Child Tax Credit youtu.be/kRKqjruJ7mI Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The Wrong Man for Colombia President Trump recently nominated Joseph MacManus to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Colombia. At a time when the U.S.-Colombian relationship is vital to regional security and stability, both countries deserve better. The argument against Mr. MacManus has two parts. First, MacManus does not appear to share the president's belief in an America First foreign policy. If the president wants his objectives to be accomplished around the world, it is critical that his political appointees to the State Department share his commitment to the task. What is MacManus committed to? It is hard to say for certain, but his background is cause for concern. MacManus is a career bureaucrat at the State Department who served as executive assistant to then-Secretary Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi disaster. He also worked as a top diplomat for then-Secretary John Kerry in implementing the Iran nuclear deal. A long career in diplomacy normally would be considered a positive qualification for a job at the State Department-but not when that career is tied to some of America's most egregious foreign-policy blunders. Second, MacManus does not have the expertise in Latin American affairs that we should demand for this sensitive position. All but one of the past six ambassadors to Columbia had previous experience as an ambassador. The exception, outgoing Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, spent practically his entire career in Latin American diplomacy, rising to the position of deputy assistant secretary for South America before becoming an ambassador. By contrast, MacManus's experience in Latin America is limited to a period of time spent as a public diplomacy officer in Mexico and El Salvador. Political unrest is increasing across Latin America. From the growing authoritarian power of Maduro in Venezuela, to contested elections in Honduras, to the fragile peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, the United States is more reliant on Colombia than ever before. The nation is a strong ally-and it is our only NATO partner in the region. We give Columbia nearly a billion dollars in foreign assistance every year. Given the stakes, we should not roll the dice on a Foggy Bottom bureaucrat with a dubious track record. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/is3Al0hoNl Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/os3Al0hoNl To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Dec 8 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: A Good Start for Utah Families
November 17, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: A Good Start for Utah Families Things are looking up for Utah families. This Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee released a revised version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This version included two key changes that make the bill much better for Utah families. First, the revised bill expanded the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 under current law to $2,000. This increase solved a potentially huge problem for working Utah families in tax reform. The original tax bill only increased the CTC to $1,650. It also eliminating the personal exemption, a tax provision that benefits many working families. This could have meant a tax hike for many Utah families, but by increasing the CTC to $2,000 the new bill avoided that mistake. According to the Tax Foundation, a family of four making $85,000 per year would get a $1,554 tax cut under the new Senate bill. And thanks to economic growth, the average middle-income Utah family would eventually see an extra $2,969 in after-tax income every year. The revised Senate bill also would repeal Obamacare's individual mandate, a provision that the Supreme Court ruled was a tax in 2012. By eliminating this tax penalty, millions of Americans families will no longer be punished for not purchasing expensive health insurance policies they do not want. Democrats claim that repealing the individual mandate would kick 13 million Americans off of their health insurance policies. But that claim could not be further from the truth, as a Washington Post fact check makes clear. It is true that five million Americans will choose not to enroll in Medicaid when they are not forced to do so by a government mandate. It also is true that an additional two million Americans will choose to decline employer-sponsored health care in return for higher wages. But these seven million people are all choosing to forego health care of their own accord. Nobody is depriving them of anything. If the individual mandate is repealed, another 5 million people who currently buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges will discontinue those policies. But many of those people would have gotten subsidies to cover the cost of Obamacare premiums. And those who do not qualify for premiums can buy unregulated health-care plans that better fit their needs. The corporate tax cut in the original version of the bill will be more good news for working families. Yes, some of that tax cut will go to the stockholders of corporate entities-but a lot of that money will go instead to new jobs and higher wages. Economists disagree on the precise breakdown, but the consensus is that lost wages make up between one-quarter and one-half of corporate tax revenue. According to the Tax Foundation, the Senate tax plan would lead to a 3.7 percent increase in economic growth, 925,000 more jobs, and 4.4% higher after-tax income. As good as this bill is- and it is good-it is not perfect. Many Utah families pay far more in Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. As written, the current Senate bill would provide these families little relief. There is a solution to this shortcoming. If we make the Child Tax Credit refundable up to the amount that families pay in payroll taxes, then the credit would be far more beneficial to those families that most need extra cash in their pockets. The bill as written also reduces federal revenues by almost $1.5 trillion. By itself, this is not a problem: The federal government shouldn't be taking so much of our money! But if this tax cut is not followed by significant spending cuts, it will hand the next generation an unacceptable debt burden My colleagues have done a fantastic job on tax reform so far. If we can just make the Child Tax Credit refundable against payroll taxes-and if we can then pledge to address our nation's spending addiction-it will be a huge win for Utah families. Technological Innovation can be stifled by Government Regulation Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The USA Liberty Act The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was signed into law in 1978 to curtail the relatively unbridled surveillance power the executive had possessed since President Franklin Roosevelt. The intent of the act was to limit the government's ability to spy on Americans abroad and all people at home. Despite their good intentions, the authors of the bill included one provision that accomplished just the opposite. Section 702 of FISA has allowed the government to collect vast amounts of information from the Internet and other technological platforms, effectively undermining the law's original intent of protecting civil liberties. Government agencies have exploited this provision to expand their spying powers. The tech trails and geotracking used by government agencies today would have seemed like the stuff of science fiction in 1978, while PRISM would have seemed like something out of 1984. We've made progress in rolling back some of these abuses-for example, by passing the USA Freedom Act in 2015-but we still have a way to go. That is why I am pleased that the USA Liberty Act passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last week. The USA Liberty Act would create a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government uses its surveillance powers without abusing citizens' constitutional rights to privacy and due process. This bill would define more strictly what information can and cannot be collected by the government, whether incidentally or intentionally. It would end the collection of information that is bundled incidentally with more important information about a person or topic of interest. It also would implement higher accountability thresholds for heads of government agencies responsible for protecting civil liberties, whistleblower protections for federal employees and contractors, and privacy and due process safeguards for American citizens. Today, Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) and I introduced a companion bill to the USA Liberty Act that includes all these protections. Our Senate bill also includes an amendment originally introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would close a "back-door" surveillance loophole by requiring domestic agencies such as the FBI to obtain a warrant before accessing any information about American citizens collected under Section 702. Fifty years after FISA's passage, we are still reconciling the need for public safety with constitutionally protected rights to privacy and due process. The USA Liberty Act would send a clear bipartisan message that our government must protect Americans' safety and constitutional rights-not one or the other. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isJzUfoo0N Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osJzUfoo0N To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Nov 17 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: The Social Element of the Opioid Crisis
November 3, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: The Social Element of the Opioid Crisis The United States has suffered through opioid crises before but never like this. First in the 1970s and then in the 1990s, opioid-related deaths spiked across the country, but the current crisis is bigger - much bigger. In 2016, approximately 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, surpassing all-time death rates for car crashes, HIV and guns. Two-thirds of those 64,000 deaths were caused by opioids. These are just some of the data points our team at the Joint Economic Committee uncovered in its latest Social Capitol Project report, "The Numbers Behind the Opioid Crisis." One reason for the severity of this crisis, our research finds, is that this time, Americans can buy opioids legally. In the 1960s, four out of five heroin addicts began their addictions with heroin. But this time, three out of four heroin addicts either obtained their opioids through a doctor or someone else's prescription. Drugs obtained freely from friends and family with legal prescriptions account for 40 percent of prescription opioids taken by opioid abusers. Not only are opioids legal to buy this time around, but most of the time they are also free for the user - another person, usually the taxpayer, picks up the bill. In 2010, patients paid just 19 percent of the cost of opioids purchased in the United States. Insurance companies paid 25 percent, Medicare paid 26 percent, Medicaid paid 13 percent and other government programs paid 16 percent. These third-party payments helped fuel an explosion in opioid prescriptions. By 2016, nearly 215 million prescriptions were filled for 61.8 million patients, or nearly one-fifth of the population. Patients have been showered with pain pills: In 2015, doctors prescribed almost enough opioids in the median U.S. county to give each resident a two-week supply. The fallout from this drug explosion has been staggering. Opioid-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, deaths from synthetic opioids more than doubled. Here in Utah, the opioid death rate increased by 118 percent while suburban emergency rooms saw a 171 percent increase in opioid-related visits. Unfortunately, it appears the worst of this crisis is yet to come. While abuse of prescription opioids seems to be falling with a recent drop in opioid prescription rates, deaths from prescription opioids continue to rise. Users also appear to be switching to even stronger narcotics. Early 2016 data suggest that fentanyl - a synthetic drug 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin - has surpassed heroin in overdose deaths, skyrocketing 540 percent in three years. These deaths have not been evenly distributed. Some populations have been harder hit than others. Those with no more than a high school education make up just 40 percent of the population in the United States, but in 2015, they accounted for 68 percent of opioid-related deaths. Never-married and divorced Americans make up just 32 percent of the population, but in 2015, they accounted for 71 percent of all opioid-related deaths. And single men with just a high school education have an opioid death rate almost three times higher than single women with the same education. Clearly, there is a strong social component to our opioid crisis. Individuals who do not have a strong family or good job appear to be much more at risk of succumbing to addiction. As we look for ways to solve this crisis, we should keep these social components in mind. More research is needed, but it does appear that loving families help addicts recover from addiction. More importantly, families appear to be a strong defense against becoming addicted in the first place. This oped first appeared in the Deseret News. How has the opioid epidemic affected your community? Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The Opioid Crisis by the Numbers In 2016, roughly 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, and opioids accounted for nearly two-thirds of those deaths. It is difficult to comprehend the full scope and magnitude of the opioids crisis, its causes, and its consequences-for families, communities, and workplaces. But better understanding the challenges it poses is a necessary first step to informed public policy. Opioid overdose deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate In 2016, approximately 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, and opioid overdose deaths alone accounted for nearly two-thirds of them. Since 1999, opioid-related deaths have quadrupled, and between 2015 and 2016, the number of deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids more than doubled. Opioid-related deaths are shifting to younger demographic groups, typically white, single or divorced, and with relatively less formal education In 2015, of the population age 25 and older, 61 percent of Americans were married, and together with widowed Americans made up 68 percent of the population, but accounted for only 28 percent of opioid overdose deaths. In contrast, never-married and divorced Americans made up about 32 percent of the population, but accounted for 71 percent of all opioid overdose deaths. In 2015, among those age 25 and older, 33 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher, but they accounted for only 9 percent of all opioid overdose deaths. In stark contrast, 40 percent had no more than a high school diploma or equivalent, but they accounted for 68 percent of opioid overdose deaths. The oversupply and abuse of legal prescription pain relievers is at the heart of the crisis In the 1960s, four out of five heroin addicts began with heroin, but by the 2000s three out of four heroin addicts began either with prescription opioids obtained legally through a doctor's prescription or illegally from someone else's prescription. Drugs freely given by friends and family constitute over 40 percent of prescription pain relievers taken by abusers of those drugs. In 2016, nearly 215 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the United States. Data analyzed by the CDC show that 61.8 million patients received those prescriptions, or 19.1 percent of the U.S. population. In the median U.S. county, physicians prescribed an amount of opioids in 2015 equivalent to a nearly two-week supply of oxycodone for every resident. A majority of opioid overdose deaths are a result of combining opioids or combining them with other central nervous system agents, including benzodiazepines (often used to treat anxiety and sleep problems). Illegally obtained opioids have rapidly become a major problem As prescription rates for opioids have declined, there has been a growing threat from illegal opioids, such as heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl (which is 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin). Fentanyl is often disguised in a substance that resembles heroin or in counterfeit prescription pills. Fentanyl seizures by law enforcement increased by a factor of six between 2014 and 2016. Hospitalization for opioids abuse has also risen across geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic groups Heroin use and opioid prescription misuse resulting in emergency room visits have been rising in many states and their major metropolitan areas. As with prescribing rates, opioid-related inpatient hospital stays are concentrated in Appalachia, the West, and New England. In 2014, those aged 25-64 had the highest rates of inpatient stays, and lower income individuals and those in the large metropolitan areas had higher rates of stays than other groups from 2005-2014. The opioid crisis will affect the next generation for years to come Reports of young children overwhelming foster care systems are pouring out of states like Ohio, which since 2010 have witnessed an increase of nearly one-fifth in the number of children placed with relatives or in foster care. Between 2009 and 2014, the percent of children nationwide with parental alcohol or drug use as a factor in out-of-home placement rose from 29.4 percent to 35.1 percent. New England and the South have the highest rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) per 1,000 hospital births. In 2013, according to a CDC study, NAS incidence per 1,000 hospital births was highest in Vermont (33.3) and West Virginia (33.4). The recent rise in NAS has been fueled by opioid addiction. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWOafyyoqN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWOafyyoqN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Nov 3 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Alexander-Murray is an Insurer Bailout
October 27, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Alexander-Murray is an Insurer Bailout Earlier this month, President Trump told a conservative audience at the Heritage Foundation, "While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray - and I do commend it - I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies." The proponents of the Alexander-Murray health care bill have since tried to make the case that their legislation does not provide a billion-dollar taxpayer windfall to insurance companies. However, a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the legislation released earlier this week shows that is exactly what the legislation does. The main component of the Alexander-Murray health care bill is an explicit appropriation for "Cost-Sharing Reduction" payments to insurance companies totaling approximately $18 billion from 2018 and 2019. The supposed purpose of this payout is to lower out-of-pocket health care costs for Obamacare customers. These CSR payments were created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but Congress never appropriated money to fund the payments. Then in an illegal abuse of power, President Obama made the payments anyway. The House of Representatives eventually sued to stop him. While President Trump continued to make CSR payments during the initial months of his presidency, a federal judge ruled this May that the payments were illegal. The Trump administration announced they would end the payments just this month. According to the CBO, if CSR payments did end this month and Alexander-Murray did not become law, then insurance premiums eventually would rise for those buying insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. But since the vast majority of people buying insurance on the exchange also get subsidies, the actual price paid by many consumers would go down and the number of Americans with health insurance would go up. If Alexander-Murray did become law, according to a new CBO report this week, premiums for 2019 would be lower while 2018 premiums, which already have been set, would not change. Insurers would still get CSR payments for 2018 even though many of them assumed they would not be getting CSR payments when they set their rates. By allowing insurers to set rates without knowing they would get CSR payments, and then paying them CSR payments anyway, Alexander-Murray is a multi-billion-dollar windfall for health insurance companies. Proponents of Alexander-Murray claim this insurer bailout is worth it because the bill also includes more flexibility for states and consumers. But nothing in the CBO report indicates that this new flexibility would do anything to lower premiums for consumers. Shoveling billions of taxpayer dollars to health insurance companies that are already enjoying record-high profits is not a step in the right direction on health care reform. What American families really need is real regulatory relief from Obamacare's draconian Title I regulations. Only when states and families are allowed to set policies and choose insurance coverage that makes sense for them will we see meaningful decline in health insurance premiums. We Need Reform, Not Bailouts Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Protecting Consumers from Trial Lawyers Every year an estimated 130 billion bank transactions worth more than $80 trillion flow through the American economy. Given the sheer volume of transactions, disagreements are bound to arise between banks and consumers. If a customer disagrees with their bank about a specific transaction, they can either a) fight the bank for the money they believe they are owed, or b) switch banks. Protracted legal battles can be costly for both banks and consumers, so many banks include clauses in their contracts that require disputes to be settled by arbitration. Arbitration has long been the preferred method of settling financial disputes in the United States. Since 1925, the Federal Arbitration Act has explicitly protected their validity from legal challenge. Trial lawyers, however, hate arbitration clauses because they make it much harder for them to win big paydays through class action lawsuits. When President Obama created his Consumer Financial Protection Board, he staffed it with pro-trial lawyer bureaucrats. Those advocates have systematically attacked the country's productive arbitration system. An opening salvo in the battle occurred this July when the CFPB issued a new regulation that would have declared certain arbitration agreements between banks and consumers illegal. According to the CFPB, this arbitration ban was necessary because without it banks could steal from their clients unchecked. Never mind that sensible consumers can-and will-switch banks the second they suspect their bank is stealing from its customers. Worse, enabling lawyers to file class action lawsuits imposes real costs on consumers. A study conducted by the CFPB itself found that between 2010-12 trial lawyers took in over $424 million in legal fees. Those legal fees don't come out of thin air. They come from consumers' damages awards and result in increased costs to consumers. According to the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, the CFPB's new arbitration ban would have raised the cost of consumer credit by 3.5 percentage points. Fortunately, Congress used the Congressional Review Act this fall to kill the CFPB's arbitration ban before it could go into effect. But the party beholden to trial lawyer campaign cash won't always be shut out of power in Congress and the White House. That is why it is so important for Congress to repeal the CFPB while it still can. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isrg8Yro0N Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osrg8Yro0N To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Oct 27 · lee

Fixing the Parent Tax Penalty
October 24, 2017 Fixing the Parent Tax Penalty What is the "Parent Tax Penalty"? The parent tax penalty is a glitch in the federal tax code that forces parents to contribute to senior entitlement programs not once, but twice. First, they pay their taxes - just like everyone else. They then incur the costs of raising their children - who of course grow up to become the next generation of taxpayers. Currently, the tax code does not account for parents' investment in their children, and thus imposes an unfair "parent tax penalty." For example, two couples, - one with children, one without - who earn identical incomes will pay the same amount in payroll taxes as their contributions to Social Security and Medicare. But the couple with kids will spend over $200,000, per child, raising the children who will eventually pay for the retirement benefits of both couples. Since both couples receive identical benefits, there is unequal treatment of parents who made the investment to raise the future taxpayers that keep the system funded. Hence, the parent tax penalty. Expanding the Child Tax Credit would be a good first step forward in eliminating this discrimination. Fixing the Parent Tax Penalty Click here to watch Live Town Hall on Wednesday Join Senator Mike Lee in an upcoming Access Live event on October 25th at 5:00 p.m. MT. Last week the Senate took the first step towards providing tax relief for hardworking American families by expanding the child tax credit. He looks forward to discussing this issue and answering any other questions you have. Sign up to be part of this event and join the discussion. To receive a phone call at the time of the event, you can register online now. Those who want to stream the event live on their computer or mobile device can use this link when the event starts: lee.senate.gov/live I look forward to having you join me for this event. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 Ogden James V. Hansen Federal Building 324 25th Street Suite 1410 Ogden, Utah 84401 Phone: 801-392-9633 Fax: 801-392-9630 SaveSaveSaveSaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isZUTspocN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osZUTspocN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Tue, Oct 24 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Real Progress Towards Tax Relief for American Families
October 20, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Real Progress Towards Tax Relief for American Families It's not every day that good news comes out of Congress, but last night the United States Senate made firm progress on tax reform that included a strong bipartisan message that the final legislation must include real tax relief for working families. Make no mistake: Any tax reform legislation that is produced this year will do so largely along partisan lines. That is why the Senate's passage of a budget resolution last night was so important for tax reform. It checked the first box in the budget reconciliation process created by the 1974 Congressional Budget Act that allows the Senate to pass certain budget-related legislation by a simple majority vote. Now the House must either pass the same budget the Senate did last night, or go to conference to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the House budget that passed earlier this month. However, all signs point to the House just voting on the Senate budget as is. After the House passes the Senate budget, it will again be the House's turn to initiate by introducing actual tax reform legislation. We got a glimpse of what that legislation will look like last month when the White House released its nine-page tax reform outline. As we mentioned in September, that outline was a good start, but it also left one key policy area unclear: the size of an expected child tax credit expansion. This is potentially a huge problem for tax reform since the most recent draft would eliminate the personal exemption, a tax provision that benefits many working families. According to analyses of the current tax outline, millions of working families could be facing a tax hike, not a tax cut. That is not what President Trump or the Republican Party promised their voters. Luckily, there is a simple fix to this problem, it is popular across party lines, and it received a unanimous vote of confidence in the Senate last night. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and I introduced an amendment to last night's budget resolution that created a "deficit neutral reserve fund" for future legislation that would increase per-child tax relief by amending the existing child tax credit. In practical terms, this only made it slightly easier for an expanded child tax credit to become law. However, the unanimous bipartisan nature of the vote sent a strong signal to the House and White House that a robust child tax credit is central to getting tax reform done. Better yet, the child tax credit may be just the right policy to convince one or two red-state Democrats to vote with Republicans for tax relief. Fixing the Parent Tax Penalty Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Senate Blue Slips More than 140 federal judgeships are currently unoccupied, a record high number. President Trump has nominated almost 60 candidates to fill those slots but so far only seven have been confirmed. There are many reasons why the Senate has not been able to confirm more of President Trump's nominees, but a major obstacle has been Democrat abuse of a Senate Judiciary Committee practice more commonly known as the "blue slip." When a candidate is nominated to a federal judicial vacancy, the two senators from the states of that vacancy are given blue slips of paper by the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman soliciting the senators' opinion of the nominee in question. The written opinions of the home-state senators are then taken into consideration when the Judiciary Committee considers the nomination. But sometimes senators choose not to return the blue slip at all, thus delaying and sometimes even blocking a nomination entirely. Senate Democrats are currently refusing to return blue slips on a number of President Trump nominees and when the possibility of proceeding to committee consideration without the blue slips has been raised, these same Democrats have claimed Republicans are trying to destroy one of the Senate's most sacred traditions. Nothing could be further from the truth. The blue slip was invented in 1917-128 years after the First Congress convened. It was never treated as a veto until 1955, when Senator James Eastland became Chairman of this Committee. Eastland was an ardent segregationist and, by turning the blue slip into a veto, he was trying to block the implementation of Brown v. Board of Education. Eastland's successor, Senator Ted Kennedy, immediately changed the status of the blue slip when he became chairman. To make a long story short, since 1955, there have been eight chairmen of the Committee, including Eastland. By my count, two have treated the blue slip as a veto. The remaining six either said the blue slip was not a veto or did not treat the blue slip as if it were a veto. So the practice, even since 1955, is mixed. And of course those first 128 years of the Republic also count. The blue slip has taken on added importance because, in 2013, the Democrats eliminated the filibuster from the executive calendar. We should be cognizant that when we change the rules-the actual, written protections we can rely on-we are left reliant on customs. Customs can always be changed, especially when they are not particularly strong customs. That's something I hope we all consider as we move forward and determine how to process pending nominees. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWn-ov8oNy Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWn-ov8oNy To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Oct 20 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Towards a Fairer and Safer Criminal Justice System
October 6, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Towards a Fairer and Safer Criminal Justice System Violent crime did increase in the United States in 2016. But not everywhere. Baltimore, Chicago, and St. Louis have all suffered a large increase in murders the past few years, while communities like Omaha, Austin, and Miami have seen crime go down. There are many explanations for why crime increased in some cities but declined in others, including the opioid epidemic and gangs. But there is another explanation for why some cities have seen large spikes in violent crimes: Their residents no longer trust the criminal justice system. "There are any number of theories on what causes crime rates to swell, but nearly everyone agrees that public trust is essential to successful law enforcement," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times. "Police alone cannot reduce crime. Community partnerships, joint problem solving and open communication with the public are critical. When those links are weak, police are less effective, particularly at preventing crime." Chief Beck's wisdom is corroborated by a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 Americans. That study found that 81% of people with a high level of trust in police said they would definitely report a crime, compared to just 54% of people with low trust. In other words, if a community does not believe their criminal justice system is fair, then they are far less likely to cooperate with that system. And when a community does not cooperate with law enforcement, crime goes up. That is why this week I cosponsored three criminal justice reform bills-the Smarter Sentencing Act, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and the Mens Rea Reform Act. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 is a bipartisan bill that would eliminate mandatory life sentences for three-strike drug offenses, give judges discretion when sentencing non-violent drug offenders, and allow federal prisons to create more programs to reduce recidivism. The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2017 would give judges additional discretion when sentencing non-violent drug offenders and allows for more cases in which judges have to retroactively reduce sentences for non-violent offenders. The Mens Rea Act of 2017 would require federal prosecutors to prove defendants actually had criminal intent when they violated a federal statute. I would proudly vote for any of these bills, individually or packaged together, because I believe reforming our criminal justice system is good policy-and a moral imperative. The United States has experienced a 500 percent increase in the number of inmates in federal custody since 1980. Almost 50 percent of those federal inmates are serving sentences for drug offenses. Mandatory sentences, particularly drug sentences, can force judges to impose one-size-fits-all sentences without taking into account the details of individual cases. Frequently, the results of these policies are lengthy sentences for minor non-violent drug offenses that are far longer than the sentences given to criminals convicted of rape, assault, or even murder. These sentences disproportionately affect minorities and foster distrust of the criminal justice system. We must safeguard the legitimacy of our criminal justice system by ensuring that the punishment fits the crime, while continuing to protect the public. Each of these bills is a step toward that ultimate goal. If we can ensure that time given to criminals matches the crimes they commit, I am confident trust will be restored in our criminal justice system and crime rates will fall again. Tax Reform Must Help Middle Class Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Repeal the Jones Act In the wake of Hurricane Maria, you probably saw those pictures of shipping containers stranded at United States ports, waiting to be delivered to survivors in Puerto Rico. One of the reasons it is so difficult to get relief supplies to hurricane victims is a 1920 law that was designed to promote a civilian merchant marine fleet that could "serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency." This Merchant Marine Act, otherwise known as the Jones Act, requires that all goods shipped between United States ports must be transported by United States ships manned by Americans. So a foreign ship carrying cattle from say, Los Angeles to Tokyo, would be forbidden from stopping in Hawaii along the way. This policy is great for American shipping companies, but it is terrible for American consumers in remote places like Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. One economist estimates that the Jones Act has cost the Puerto Rican economy $17 billion over the past 20 years alone. It has become routine for presidents to waive the Jones Act in the wake of natural disasters. President Bush waived the Jones Act after Hurricane Katrina, and President Trump waived the law after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and eventually Maria as well. But the president shouldn't have to waive this World War I-era relic after every natural disaster. The United States has long had an adequate navy that can provide for national security without an auxiliary merchant marine force. It is long past time to repeal the Jones Act entirely so that Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Puerto Ricans aren't forced to pay higher prices for imported goods-and so they rapidly receive the help they need in the wake of natural disasters. That is why I joined with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) this week to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act. American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are exempt from the Jones Act already. Puerto Rico should be, too. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWLNa5OEQN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWLNa5OEQN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Oct 6 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: One Weird Trick to Make Tax Reform Happen
September 29, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: One Weird Trick to Make Tax Reform Happen Let's face it: Republicans in Washington must pass tax reform. The American people elected us expecting us to repeal Obamacare and bring about tax reform. We haven't repealed ObamaCare so if we don't get tax reform done, we are in trouble. We might as well flip up our tent and go home. Fortunately tax reform looks to be off to a good start. The nine-page plan released by the White House Wednesday lowers rates, simplifies the tax code, and encourages businesses to invest in America again. There is one problem though. The plan is not specific enough about how it will cut taxes for working families. And if those details aren't filled in correctly then some working families would see no tax cut at all and others might even suffer a tax hike. The hitch is that since the current tax plan eliminates the personal exemption, some families with children would actually pay less under the current system then they would under the White House plan. This is simply unacceptable and it could spell doom for tax reform. But don't worry. There is a solution. The White House tax plan does call for an increase of the child tax credit, it just doesn't specify how much. If the tax reform legislation written by Congress fills in that detail correctly, if they at minimum double the child tax credit and make it applicable to payroll taxes, then Republicans can follow through on their promise to cut taxes for all working families. "We're going to cut taxes for the middle class, make the tax code simpler and more fair for everyday Americans, and we are going to bring back the jobs and wealth that have left our country," President Trump said in Indianapolis, Indiana Wednesday. "We want tax reform that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-family, and yes, pro-American. It's time to take care of our people to rebuild our nation, and to fight for our great American workers." Republicans in Congress can follow through on this promise. They can show the nation they can govern. But none of that is going to happen if they leave working families out in the cold. If tax reform is going to pass it is going to have to benefit all working families. And the best way to do that is a big increase in the child tax credit. We can do this. Let's get this done. Tax Reform Must Help Middle Class Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The Native Species Protection Act When the pioneers first moved across the Great Plains, they found them to be covered with foot-tall rodents they eventually called prairie dogs. Utah is estimated to have had as many as 95,000 of these Utah prairie dogs as late as the 1920s. But due to disease, drought, and poison, that number had dropped to almost 3,000 in 1972. In 1973 the Utah prairie dog was listed as an "endangered" pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, and a management plan was developed bring the species back. The Utah prairie dog population quickly recovered and by 1984 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reclassify the animal from "endangered" to "threatened." Unfortunately the federal government also chose to leave most of the regulations protecting the Utah prairie dog in place. Since that time, the Utah prairie dogs have fruitfully multiplied and now there are now an estimated 40,000 in the state. If you live far away in Washington, DC, this may sound like fantastic news, but if you live in southwest Utah, the only place in the world this species of prairie dog exists, it is not so great. These critters may be cute, but not only have they ruined crops and backyards, but they have also been known to invade cemeteries, open coffins, and topple gravestones. The people of southwest Utah have had enough. In 2013 some residents of Cedar City, Utah sued the federal government and challenged the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the Utah prairie dog. See unlike many species, the Utah prairie dog exists only in Utah. So the residents of Cedar City argued that since the Utah prairie dog habitat didn't cross state lines, it did not affect interstate commerce, and therefore Congress had no power to regulate it under the Constitution. In 2014 a federal district court sided with the residents of Cedar City and turned management of the Utah prairie dog over to the state of Utah. For the past two years under state management, the species reached its highest population levels since the 1970s. But an appeals court overruled the district court's decision and returned management authority to the Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year. The people of Cedar City shouldn't have to seek permission from Washington, DC to control their rodent population. That is why I recently introduced, the Native Species Protection Act, which would clarify that the federal government has no regulatory jurisdiction over a single-state species. This is a commonsense reform that would limit the damage caused by federal mismanagement of protected species, while empowering state and local officials to pursue sensible conservation plans with their communities. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isUzohqEZN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osUzohqEZN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Sep 29 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Make the CBO Show Their Work
September 22, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: An Intolerant Secular Creed When Democrats passed Obamacare on a party-line vote in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2016, 21 million people would receive health insurance through the law's exchanges. In reality, just 10 million people did. The CBO's model was off by more than 100 percent. The same CBO estimate predicted that Medicaid would grow by 17 million enrollees to about 52 million. In reality, more than 34 million people have signed up for Medicaid since Obamacare became law, for a total of 74.5 million recipients today. Again, the CBO's model was off by around 100 percent. Now the CBO wants us to believe, based on the same models, that just repealing Obamacare's individual mandate, without a single dime's worth of cuts to Medicaid, would cause more than 7 million people to abandon their Medicaid coverage. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the quality of healthcare that lower-income Americans receive through Medicaid, but why would 7 million voluntarily give up Medicaid coverage they receive for free? These CBO projections, and others like it, strain the boundaries of common sense. When it comes to topics like the effectiveness of the individual mandate, there are sharp disagreements among experts. That's why, in the academic community, scholars have to "show their work" by publicly disclosing their data, estimates, and analysis to scholarly scrutiny, and most importantly, refinement and improvement. Congress does need a scorekeeper to provide budgetary estimates for the policy changes it considers. But at a bare minimum, that scorekeeper should be forced to show how its models work. Currently the CBO doesn't have to do that. It's a "black box," a secret formula even Congress can't be allowed to see, yet which the House and Senate must treat as if they were handed down on stone tablets at Mt. Sinai. It's an indefensible situation. That is why I have introduced the CBO Show Your Work Act of 2017. This bill would require the CBO to publish its data, models, and all details of computation used in its cost analysis and scoring. CBO would keep its role as official scorekeeper of congressional budget proposals - but now the public and the economic community would be able to see what's going on in all those spreadsheets and algorithms. That is, it would hold CBO to the same standard the American Economic Association's "Data Availability Policy" sets for all academic economists: requiring all paper authors to ensure their data "are readily available to any researcher for purposes of replication." Consider again Obamacare's individual mandate. President Barack Obama opposed an individual mandate while campaigning in 2008, but saw the light later when the CBO started scoring Obamacare drafts. A 2009 memo written by then-White House health adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle informed the president, "Based on our policy analysis, we believe that a weak requirement for all Americans to have insurance may come close to achieving the maximum coverage that can be achieved through aggressive outreach and auto-enrollment. Unfortunately, however, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will likely take the position that without an individual responsibility requirement, half of the uninsured will be left uncovered." Following this memo, Obama chose to substitute the CBO's policy judgment for his own. The individual mandate became a pillar of the largest policy change in a generation. Policymakers need data and data analysis to do their jobs. But to do their jobs well, they need the best analysis. And centuries of practical experience tell us that transparency and replicability are essential to the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge. There is simply no serious argument for insulating the most influential economic modelers in the United States from the academic standards that govern everyone from Nobel Prize-winning physicists to second graders "carrying the one" as they learn long addition. We can do better as a Congress and a nation. We are never going to agree on what the best healthcare, tax, or energy policies should be. But when we make our arguments about the costs and benefits of our preferred policies, we should at least be willing to explain how and why our policies would work. Making the CBO show its own work would be a great first step. Op-ed originally published in the Washington Examiner "It's not the government's money" Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: SHUSH! If you've ever looked outside an airplane window before takeoff, you've see ground maintenance personnel wearing protective earmuffs. That's because the sound of a jet engine taking off, 150 decibels, is loud enough to rupture your eardrum. The sound of a rifle being shot is an even louder 165 decibels, which is why hunters, sportsmen, and marksmen like to firearm suppressors to lower the volume of their shots. But suppressors don't work like they do in the movies. You can't make an AR-15 as quiet as using a stapler. At most a suppressor can lower the sound of a rifle shot by about 35 decibels, down to about 130 decibels, about the same sound level as a chainsaw. Nobody is going to sneak away from anybody with a chainsaw going full blast, but at least their eardrums won't burst. Unfortunately the federal government treats suppressors just as oppressively as they treat actual firearm sales. To buy a silencer a citizen must complete two copies of ATF Form 4, fill ut TF Form 5330.20, obtain a certification from a local chief law enforcement officer, obtain two copies of finger prints, obtain two passport photos, and mail all of these items plus a $200 check to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Even after doing all that the approved Form 4 won't come back for 9-12 months. This is a ridiculous, unnecessary, and oppressive process which only hurts the eardrums of millions of hunters, sportsmen, and marksmen every year. That is why Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and I have introduced the Silencers Helping Us Save Hearing Act of 2017 (SHUSH). The bill would eliminate all federal regulation - including taxes, fees, and registration requirements - of firearm suppressors. Unlike the Hearing Protection Act, a competing suppressor bill, SHUSH does not create a new federal background check for firearm accessories. The federal government knows enough about us already, another federal database isn't going to help anyone. Firearm suppressors are not lethal. You can't kill anyone with one. And they do not turn criminals into James Bond like in the movies. They do make a perfectly legal sport more safe for millions of Americans and SHUSH will make it easier for Americans to protect themselves. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iW3jzRXEON Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oW3jzRXEON To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Sep 22 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: An Intolerant Secular Creed
September 15, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: An Intolerant Secular Creed Last week, Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Coney Barrett came before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a nominee to be a circuit court judge. Her nomination was endorsed by prominent legal scholars from across the political spectrum, including Neal Katyal, President Obama's acting solicitor general. Unfortunately a number of my Democratic colleagues insinuated that her Catholic faith would prevent her from applying the law freely and fairly. "Dogma and law are two different things," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). "When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's a concern." Sen. Durbin (D-IL) later added, "What's an 'orthodox Catholic?' Do you consider yourself an 'orthodox Catholic'?" These remarks unfortunately fit an emerging pattern from Democratic lawmakers. Just a few months ago, another eminently qualified nominee, Russell Vought, appeared before the Budget Committee to be considered for a post at the Office of Management and Budget. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) questioned the nominee, not about management or budgets, but about his evangelical Christian beliefs. "In your judgment," asked this senator, "do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?" Mr. Vought explained that he was an evangelical Christian and adhered to those beliefs. But that wasn't good enough for Sanders who later stated he would vote against Mr. Vought's nomination because he was not "what this country is supposed to be about." These strange inquisitions have nothing to do with the nominees' competency, patriotism, or ability to serve Americans of different faiths equally. In fact, they have little to do with this life at all. Instead they have to do with the afterlife. To my knowledge, the OMB and the Seventh Circuit have no jurisdiction over that. This country is divided enough. Millions of Americans feel that Washington, D.C. and the dominant culture despise them. And how could they not, when they see their leaders sitting here, grilling patriotic citizens about their faith like inquisitors? Religious freedom is of deep concern to me as a Mormon. My church has weathered extraordinary religious persecution, much of it sponsored by the government. The first Latter Day Saints were exiled from home after home. In 1838, the governor of Missouri ordered that Mormons be driven from the land or "exterminated." Our first leader, Joseph Smith, once said, "the civil magistrate . . . should punish guilt but never suppress the freedom of the soul." That, of course, was before he was martyred by a bigoted mob. Our country's ban on religious tests is a strong bulwark for religious freedom. As an original provision of the Constitution, it predates even the Bill of Rights. And it applies not just to some religious adherents, but to all of them, equally. The religious tests raised against Mr. Vought and Ms. Barrett do not favor one sect of Christian over another, as was sadly common for much of our nation's history. Rather, they favor the secular, progressive creed clung to so confidently by the nation's ruling elites. This creed has its own clerics, its own dogmas, and, as these nominees have discovered, it has its own heresies, too. More and more, the adherents of this creed seek to use the power of government to steamroll disfavored groups-especially dissenters from their political dogmas. So they force evangelical caterers to bake cakes celebrating same-sex marriages, as in the case that is before the Supreme Court now. And they force nuns to purchase contraceptive coverage. And sue religious hospitals that won't perform abortions or sex-reassignment surgeries. Yes, the secular, progressive creed has proven that it is capable of triumphalism and intolerance, just like the creeds that have gone before it. Not because its adherents are uniquely wicked, to the contrary: Because they are human. There is a way out of this vicious cycle of religious intolerance. And that is for all of us to treat one another with civility and to respect the constitutional rights of citizens who come before it. Because religious freedom puts all Americans on the same footing. It helps men and women stand upright, honest before the law-and before God. Lee Addresses Complications of the Dream Act Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: North Korea's Quiet Crimes Thirteen years ago a 24-year-old Brigham Young University student named David Sneddon vanished in China's Yunnan province. After a cursory investigation, Chinese officials concluded that David must have died while hiking alone through Tiger Leaping Gorge. But David's kin retraced his steps, and they found that the official story didn't add up. For one, David was an experienced hiker and a responsible kid-an Eagle Scout, in fact. Could he have fallen into such peril on a well-traveled trail? Unlikely. Supposing he had, where was the body? Over a decade later, no remains have been produced. Eyewitness testimony, meanwhile, placed David in a Chinese city at the end of his planned hiking route. This suggests he passed safely through the gorge before disappearing. He would have had to circle back through the gorge in order for the official explanation to be correct. Again, unlikely. After thirteen years, no evidence exists to support the official explanation of an untimely death in the gorge. And then there were other curious details. David Sneddon was traveling near the so-called "Asian Underground Railroad," a network of mostly Christian missionaries who help North Korean defectors flee to safety. North Korean agents are known to operate along the route, ruthlessly hunting down and intercepting defectors and returning them to execution or permanent captivity on the gulag peninsula of North Korea. And Sneddon was last seen leaving a Korean restaurant. Korean restaurants reportedly are used as outposts for North Korean espionage and illicit enterprise. Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, one month before David's disappearance, North Korea took the rare step of releasing an American captive, 64-year-old Charles Jenkins. North Korea had forced Jenkins to teach English to its spies at a military university during his almost 40-year captivity. After his release, the regime needed a substitute teacher. David Sneddon was an Asian Languages major. Highly educated, David spoke perfect American English with a Midwestern accent. Subsequent intelligence from inside North Korea has supported what these facts strongly suggest: It is likely David Sneddon was taken by the North Korean regime in 2004. He likely has been held captive in that country ever since. David Sneddon's possible abduction is one link in a chain of North Korean crimes that stretches back to the Korean War, when the regime ordered the capture of over 80,000 "prominent" South Koreans. Since the Armistice, North Korea has used a combination of flattery and force to abduct many thousands more. The regime tricked more than 90,000 ethnic Koreans in Japan into traveling to North Korea to build a "worker's paradise" they could never leave. Roughly 100 other disappearances in Japan have been attributed to Pyongyang. In many cases, individuals were snatched from Japanese shores and spirited away on speedboats, never to be seen again. Similarly, nearly 4,000 South Korean fishermen have been abducted after run-ins with North Korean intelligence vessels. Recent reports indicate that North Korea has been hunting in China to discourage involvement in the Asian Underground Railroad. And Pyongyang's reach extends beyond the Asia-Pacific region. Its operatives have attempted kidnappings in such familiar locales as London, Copenhagen, and Beirut. All told, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea estimates that as many as 180,000 people have been abducted by North Korea. One-hundred and eighty thousand. That's just a few thousand less than the population of Salt Lake City. Of those 180,000 abductions, only 13 have been acknowledged by North Korea and of these 13, only 5 were allowed to return. The regime likely acknowledged this in the hope it would lead to a multibillion-dollar reparations payment from Japan. In the process of making this limited admission, it fabricated evidence and stonewalled investigators in order to cover up the true extent of its crimes. It is easy for us to lose sight of North Korean abductions in light of the regime's other flagrant offenses. It has swapped weapons and expertise with other pariah states, including Iran and Syria. It has conducted a campaign of political murders, including the assassination of a member of the Kim family in the public terminal of a Malaysian airport. It continues to subjugate the North Korean people in conditions relatable to us only through the writings of George Orwell. For the majority of the impoverished, oppressed citizens of North Korea, from birth to death, they are doomed to suffer out their lives in the gulag peninsula of North Korea. And of course it has made rapid strides in its nuclear weapons and ICBM programs, raising the terrible spectre of nuclear Armageddon once again. In stark contrast to its nuclear program or its missile tests, North Korea's abductions are quiet crimes. They are marked not by seismic activity but by the absence of loved ones. By late-night walks never completed. By fishing boats that never return. By hikers who vanish from the trail. Because of the quiet nature of North Korea's abductions, it is up to the Free World to be loud. We have to be like the Sneddon family in Utah and the Yokota family in Japan, who have advocated tirelessly for their loved ones and all other abductees. In that spirit, I, along with several of my colleagues in Congress, have introduced a joint resolution expressing our concern about the disappearance of David Sneddon. The resolution encourages the State Department and Intelligence Community to investigate all plausible explanations for David's disappearance-including abduction by North Korea. The resolution further encourages the United States government to work with the Sneddon family and our allies in the region to investigate the disappearance and hopefully secure his release. This resolution is a start, and I pray that one day soon the Sneddon family will be reunited with David. It is unlikely we will ever know the stories of all those held captive in North Korea, so great are its crimes. But we can do much more for the few we know. We can shine a narrow searchlight into the darkness of tyranny, and wait for dawn to break on North Korea. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWCgCvBENL Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWCgCvBENL To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Sep 15 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Let's Get Tax Reform Done
September 8, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Let's Get Tax Reform Done There is no way to sugar coat it. The last few months have not been good for the conservative movement. This past summer Congress failed to repeal Obamacare and now Congress has yet again kicked the can down the road on tackling our uncontrolled spending and working to reduce our continually growing debt that is about to reach $20 trillion. But what is done is done, and we must now do our best to salvage the year by passing real tax reform before the year is out. I firmly believe that the best way to build a winning coalition to pass tax reform is to make sure the legislation explicitly and directly helps American working families. And the best way to do that is to expand the tax code's existing child tax credit. All conservatives should support tax relief for working parents because the current code unfairly overtaxes them. I don't mean this in the generic sense that Washington overtaxes everyone. Though that's true, too, of course. Rather, I mean that today, parents raising children are discriminated against and effectively penalized by federal tax policy. This hidden "parent tax penalty" is not as well known as the marriage tax penalty, but it's an even greater challenge to working moms and dads. And I believe conservatives should insist on addressing it in any tax bill this Congress considers. The penalty works like this. Because of how our federal senior entitlement programs are set up, parents pay for them twice. Parents of course pay their payroll taxes, like everyone else does. But then they also contribute again, by bearing the enormous costs of raising their children - who of course grow up to become the next generation of citizens, workers, leaders, and taxpayers on which the whole system depends. Parents alone bear this double burden during the years they're raising their kids. It's not a natural consequence of having children - like sleep deprivation or mowing the lawn in shorts and over-the-calf dress socks. Rather, it's a dysfunctional consequence of poorly written government policy. And so it seems to me that policymakers need to figure out some way to offset that inequity. The current, $1,000 per-child tax credit is a good start. But over 18 years, $18,000 barely makes a dent in the costs of raising a child - which runs to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so I think it should be bigger. A lot bigger. Two-thousand dollars per child? Twenty-five hundred? Furthermore, because the payroll tax is the real tax burden most middle class families face, the child credit ought to be applicable to payroll taxes, too - not just income taxes. The child credit, thus, does not create an inequity in the tax code; it helps to correct one that already exists. Americans voted for change last November, and frankly we have not delivered so far. But passing tax reform that would return billions of dollars to working families would be a great place to start. Utah Solutions Summit 2017: Congressional Collaboration and Conviction's Role in the Process Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: The Art of Tolerance In July 2012, two men entered the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado and asked the owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips, to custom-design a wedding cake for the pair's same-sex wedding. Phillips offered to sell the couple anything else in the store, even a pre-made cake, but citing his Christian faith Phillips declined to design a special cake just for the couple's wedding. The couple then filed a complaint with Colorado Civil Rights Commission who found that Phillips had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and ordered Phillips to bake the couple a wedding cake. The Commission further ordered Phillips to go through a "re-education" program and file quarterly "compliance" reports with state showing that his business was following the state's prevailing marriage doctrine. Phillips appealed the Commission's decision to Colorado's Supreme Court and when that court ordered him to bake the cake too, he then appealed to the United States Supreme Court who will hear oral arguments on the case later this year. This week, 85 of my congressional colleagues and I signed an amicus brief supporting Jack Phillips' First Amendment right to freedom of expression. It is a sad commentary on the current state of religious freedom in this country that this case had to go this far. The American colonies were settled by persecuted religious minorities. The Constitution makes clear that America is a meant to be a nation that tolerates and protects differences of opinion. We're supposed to share the public square with people who hold vastly different beliefs about life, not to mention the life to come. It is clear we are going through a period of heightened tension and distrust in this country. But I believe that most Americans still have the maturity-not to mention the neighborly decency-to live side-by-side with people who are different from them. The Supreme Court should reaffirm the basic principle that government is not a legitimate tool to squelch dissent. It cannot force us to speak when we want to remain silent, just as it cannot shut down our speech in the public square. Rather than enforcing conformity, the Court should leave us to work out our differences among ourselves, with peace and charity. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isJ2zvfENK Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osJ2zvfENK To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Sep 8 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Make the CBO Show Their Work
August 4, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Make the CBO Show Their Work When Democrats passed Obamacare on a party-line vote in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2016, 21 million people would receive health insurance through the law's exchanges. In reality, just 10 million people did. The CBO's model was off by more than 100 percent. The same CBO estimate predicted that Medicaid would grow by 17 million enrollees to about 52 million. In reality, more than 34 million people have signed up for Medicaid since Obamacare became law, for a total of 74.5 million recipients today. Again, the CBO's model was off by around 100 percent. Now the CBO wants us to believe, based on the same models, that just repealing Obamacare's individual mandate, without a single dime's worth of cuts to Medicaid, would cause more than 7 million people to abandon their Medicaid coverage. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the quality of healthcare that lower-income Americans receive through Medicaid, but why would 7 million voluntarily give up Medicaid coverage they receive for free? These CBO projections, and others like it, strain the boundaries of common sense. When it comes to topics like the effectiveness of the individual mandate, there are sharp disagreements among experts. That's why, in the academic community, scholars have to "show their work" by publicly disclosing their data, estimates, and analysis to scholarly scrutiny, and most importantly, refinement and improvement. Congress does need a scorekeeper to provide budgetary estimates for the policy changes it considers. But at a bare minimum, that scorekeeper should be forced to show how its models work. Currently the CBO doesn't have to do that. It's a "black box," a secret formula even Congress can't be allowed to see, yet which the House and Senate must treat as if they were handed down on stone tablets at Mt. Sinai. It's an indefensible situation. That is why I have introduced the CBO Show Your Work Act of 2017. This bill would require the CBO to publish its data, models, and all details of computation used in its cost analysis and scoring. CBO would keep its role as official scorekeeper of congressional budget proposals - but now the public and the economic community would be able to see what's going on in all those spreadsheets and algorithms. That is, it would hold CBO to the same standard the American Economic Association's "Data Availability Policy" sets for all academic economists: requiring all paper authors to ensure their data "are readily available to any researcher for purposes of replication." Policymakers need data and data analysis to do their jobs. But to do their jobs well, they need the best analysis. And centuries of practical experience tell us that transparency and replicability are essential to the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge. There is simply no serious argument for insulating the most influential economic modelers in the United States from the academic standards that govern everyone from Nobel Prize-winning physicists to second graders "carrying the one" as they learn long addition. We can do better as a Congress and a nation. We are never going to agree on what the best healthcare, tax, or energy policies should be. But when we make our arguments about the costs and benefits of our preferred policies, we should at least be willing to explain how and why our policies would work. Making the CBO show its own work would be a great first step. A version of this op-ed first appeared in The Washington Examiner. Reducing Fire Fuel Loads in Our National Forests Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Child Tax Credit For many years, the federal tax code has unfairly penalized married couples for having and raising children. Under current law, workers pay payroll taxes in order to fund old-age entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid. Working parents pay these taxes like everyone else while also making large investments in their children. The average middle-income family spends nearly $250,000 to raise a child to age 17, according to the Department of Agriculture. And that hefty sum does not include the cost of a college education. This situation is unfair to hard-working parents, who in effect contribute twice to old-age entitlement programs: First through direct tax payments, and second through rearing the next generation of payroll-tax contributors. I have worked hard for years to eliminate this "Parent Tax Penalty." The core of my proposal is an expanded Child Tax Credit, as outlined in the Economic Growth and Family Fairness Tax Reform Plan that I co-authored with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Currently, the tax code includes a Child Tax Credit worth up to $1,000 per qualifying child. Our proposal would increase this tax credit to $2,500 per qualifying child, credited against the sum of parents' income tax and payroll tax liabilities. This week, more evidence came to light confirming that this proposal would bring valuable relief to working families in Utah and across the country. A new analysis by the Sutherland Institute found that "the Rubio-Lee proposal will bring significant economic benefits to low-to-middle-income and/or rural counties" where large families are common. Those areas include Utah, the Sunbelt, parts of Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest. The expanded Child Tax Credit would benefit all working parents, but it would be valuable especially to low- and middle-income parents as a percentage of their income. While a $2,500 credit is helpful relief to the family making $250,000, it is much more valuable to the family making $50,000 a year. The Sutherland Institute confirmed this common-sense understanding of our proposal. It found that an expanded Child Tax Credit would have a relatively greater economic impact "in lower-to-middle-income counties (measured by AGI) . . . than in higher-income counties," as measured by percentage of aggregate gross income. Overall, the analysis concluded that the expanded Child Tax Credit "both strengthens families and encourages economic equality." Congress should take that finding to heart as it begins the necessary work of fixing the nation's unfair tax code. Too many families are paying too much under the current code. We owe them a better deal for their hard work. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWUJDe2EBN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWUJDe2EBN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Aug 4 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: The Next Steps Towards Health Care Reform
July 28, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: The Next Steps Towards Health Care Reform Last night was a setback for health care reform. There is no way around that. But it may also be a blessing in disguise. The bill we were voting on, what many in the media were referring to as a "skinny" repeal bill, was truly an anemic effort. While it did repeal the individual mandate permanently, it provided only temporary relief from the employer mandate and medical device tax. It also left the rest of the Affordable Care Act's regulations, taxes, and subsidies completely intact. By some estimates it repealed just two percent of Obamacare. Even worse then the product we were voting on was the process that led to last night's vote. The bill we voted on around 1:30 this morning was only released about three hours before. It was only a handful of pages, so there was time to read it (for a change). But there was no serious debate or deliberation about its contents. Amendments could be offered, but without reports from the Congressional Budget Office about their impact on the economy and the federal budget, they required 60 votes for passage. The bill was written in secret, with no input from either the formal congressional committees charged with oversight of our health care system, or the informal working group assigned by our leadership to craft the legislation. My preferred amendment sat at CBO for four weeks without being given a "score" detailing its projected costs and benefits. My colleague Ron Johnson (R-WI) waited four months for a CBO report on various Obamacare provisions, without any response. This is not the way the Senate is supposed to work. It is not the way a free people is supposed to govern itself. When the bill failed, many declared the issue dead. But as long as Obamacare is on the books, hurting millions of Americans and driving up the cost of healthcare, this issue isn't going anywhere. We must now go back to the drawing board. We must to go back to the proper committees of jurisdiction and start from the beginning by identifying the specific policy problems we are trying to solve and then craft reforms to solve them. The United States is a large, vibrant, and diverse country. There is no reason to assume the health care policies that work in a state with the demographics of Florida will also work in a state like Utah. What we need to identify is a politically palatable way to give states the freedom needed to craft their own health care solutions. At the heart of this effort must be true freedom from the federal regulations that are the main drivers of our nation's rising health care costs. Seeking Accountability for Federal Lands and Water Projects Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: A Privacy Update The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states plainly that Americans cannot be subjected to "unreasonable searches and seizures" of our "persons, houses, papers, and effects." But what about emails, text messages, and digital documents? Do they qualify for protection under the Fourth Amendment? Any reasonable observer would answer yes, given how much intimate and personal information we share through those mediums every day. Electronic communications and records are the "papers and effects" of an online age. They should clearly be protected from government snooping. It is stunning, then, that current law does not give provide sufficient protection to electronic communications. This needs to change, and it will if I and several of my colleagues are successful. America's online privacy laws are based on a bill passed way back in 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). This well-intended bill prohibited the federal government from intercepting electronic communications and accessing some stored data. That's because its authors understood that electronic communications were no different than phone calls or letters transmitted by homing pigeon. But when Congress wrote the ECPA in 1986, the "Internet" as we know it did not exist-its predecessor, ARPANET, was used only by academic researchers, the military, and a few hobbyists. Congress did not anticipate that within a few decades the Internet would be used by billions to communicate, read the news, and even shop for groceries. So they carelessly included a provision in ECPA that permitted the government to access many forms of archived data without getting permission from a judge. Under the provision, electronic records stored with third-party service providers for longer than 180 days are deemed "abandoned," in the same way that a physical storage unit can be abandoned. Government agents can then access "abandoned" records by subpoenaing the third party. As a result, we know that government agencies such as the IRS Criminal Tax Division have advised agents that they can rummage through Americans' old emails without a search warrant-all because, in the words of the FBI, we shouldn't have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in our emails. This provision may have seemed harmless in 1986, the year Metroid and Legend of Zeldadebuted in 8-bit graphics on the NES. Practically nothing was stored in a digital form back then. But the law is dangerously outdated in 2017, when any citizen can store all of his personal records online in perpetuity through services like Google Drive and Dropbox. Since 2013, I have worked with Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and several other colleagues to protect Americans' papers and effects wherever they are found-whether in a server farm, the Cloud, or a safe deposit box. This week we re-introduced two bills that would go a long way to accomplishing this goal, the ECPA Modernization Act and Email Privacy Act. The bills would bring online privacy protections up to par with the protections we expect for other forms of communication. They would require government agents to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause to access our records, with reasonable exceptions for national security searches and emergency situations. The ECPA Modernization Act is a little broader than the Email Privacy Act, since it also requires law enforcement to get a warrant before they can track your location by using your cell phone location data, but both these bipartisan bills are long overdue updates to our federal privacy laws. The federal government never relinquishes its power over our lives easily. It has fought these reforms at every turn. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isceruYExN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osceruYExN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jul 28 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Don’t Let Government Take Your Stuff
July 21, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Don't Let Government Take Your Stuff Americans have a proud history of opposing government seizures of property. During the revolutionary period, American colonists protested broad warrants, called "writs of assistance," that British customs officers used to hunt for contraband. Those colonists would be shocked to learn that far bolder government seizures are carried out on a daily basis using civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture rules vary by jurisdiction, so I'll use the federal government as an example. The Feds can seize your property if they believe it is connected to a crime, regardless of whether you're ever charged. Worse, the same officials who seize your property are entitled to keep it. That creates an irresistible incentive to act aggressively. Civil forfeiture is big business. In 2014, the Justice Department alone reported total forfeitures of $4.5 billion of forfeiture revenue (both criminal and civil). And about 87% of all forfeitures conducted by DOJ are civil, not criminal, forfeitures. The Feds can seize your property if they believe it is connected to a crime, regardless of whether you're ever charged. Worse, the same officials who seize your property are entitled to keep it. On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinstituted two particularly controversial civil forfeiture practices: equitable sharing and adoption. These practices permit the federal government to process civil forfeitures on behalf of local officials. After the forfeiture has been processed and litigated under federal rules, federal officials remit cash generated by selling the property back to local officials. That allows local officials to bypass local laws, which often provide more procedural protections than federal rules. The Feds are part the racket, too, because they effectively get free money by processing a seizure. These practices present serious federalism and due process problems. Earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he is "skeptical" that modern civil forfeiture practices are constitutional. The Attorney General says that civil forfeiture is a way to "take back ill-gotten gains." But this confuses civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture, which comes after someone has already been convicted. The entire problem with civil forfeiture is that the government doesn't need to conclusively show the property was connected to a crime and therefore neither it nor the public can be sure seized property qualifies as "ill-gotten gains." The AG also claims that civil forfeiture "helps return property to the victims of crime." But the AG himself acknowledges that officials use proceeds from seized property to buy supplies and improve training. This doesn't sound like law enforcement so much as a protection racket. The AG's core point, however, is that civil asset forfeiture "is a key tool that helps law enforcement." That may be true, but it comes at the cost of fundamental constitutional rights upon which the country was founded. The bad news is that civil forfeiture, like so many harmful government programs, is a bipartisan cause. Loretta Lynch, President Obama's Attorney General, quietly expanded the practice in 2016. Sessions appears to be following in her footsteps. The good news is that civil forfeiture reform is a bipartisan cause as well. Just this May, I wrote a letter with several of my colleagues from both parties calling for civil forfeiture reform. Additionally, Democrats and Republicans joined me in supporting the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act. When the government can seize our property on the basis of mere suspicion, the people form suspicions about government. They begin to see law enforcement officers as potential predators rather than protectors, which is unfair to the vast majority of law enforcement officers who are dedicated to serving their communities. A version of this note first appeared in The New York Post. The Consumer Freedom Amendment Tears Down that Wall Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Why States Must Lead on Drone Regulation Last month, drone industry executives told President Trump they needed more regulation, not less, before they could expand further - a man-bites-dog story if ever there was one. But the answer isn't to keep waiting on Washington. It's to make use of one of our nation's founding principles: federalism. For now, the drone industry is grounded because the Federal Aviation Agency hasn't written guidelines for drones that fly beyond the operator's line of sight. Rules are also absent for drone flights at night. It will take years for this bureaucratic behemoth to pass through all the procedural hoops and hurdles necessary to produce a comprehensive regulatory scheme. The agency itself predicts drones won't be fully integrated into our nation's airspace until 2025. But our rivals aren't waiting. The Chinese-based manufacturer DJI is dominating the drone market, winning 50 percent of sales in North America alone. The only North American market not dominated by DJI is for drones priced under $500, which are mostly toys. Meanwhile, drones are making home deliveries in Japan. They're providing medical supplies in Rwanda. And they're tracking poachers in South Africa. All around the world, drones are changing the economy. American communities and businesses could use drones for plenty of tasks, too, if only they were allowed. But right now Americans don't have the regulatory certainty they need to hire workers and turn their ideas into products. The drone industry will be stuck on the launch pad until this is fixed. That's why a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill with to break the regulatory logjam and return power to states and local communities. The bill, titled the Drone Federalism Act, would recognize the right of states and local communities to govern drones within a specified zone of authority, the airspace under 200 feet. The FAA would still be responsible for the overall safety of the skies. But at this low altitude, state and local governments would be able to set guidelines for the "reasonable time, manner, and place" of drone flights. Until now, states and local communities have been shut out of the conversation. Not a single state, regional, or tribal authority serves on the 37-member Drone Advisory Committee to the FAA. Only one member, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, represents a local government. Yet the committee is considering pre-empting local regulations by assuming full jurisdiction over drone use, regardless of height. Such a move would stall the growth of the American drone industry. Our bill would stop this power grab in its tracks. It would give state and local authorities the clarity and authority they need to develop rules for local drone use. It would give the drone industry the certainty to invest, experiment, and expand. And it would give our economy a boost. This IIF was co-written by Tom Cotton and first appeared in The Washington Times. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iW4_g9AEN7 Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oW4_g9AEN7 To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jul 21 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Saving Communities with Federalism
July 14, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Saving Communities with Federalism How strong are America's communities? Sadly, we know from decades of research, including work by the Social Capital Project, that they are growing weaker. Men and women are having fewer children in total, and they are also having fewer children within wedlock. Between 1970 and 2015, births to single mothers rose from 11 percent of all births to 40 percent. Americans are spending less time in religious communities. Church attendance and trust in organized religion have dropped sharply since the early 1970s. Americans also participate less in secular voluntary associations such as the Boy Scouts and Rotary International-groups that historically have brought together people from different walks of life. The destruction of community life is a spiritual crisis for millions. They have been severed from local institutions that give meaning to the soul. What caused this? There are of course many culprits, but much of the blame goes to the federal government, which has intruded into aspects of life that used to be the sole domain of civil society. As scholar Robert Nisbet observed, government crowds out civic groups by competing with them to perform similar social functions. Robbed of purpose by a competitor they cannot outspend, these civic groups wither, leaving behind an empty public square. The challenge we face today is rebuilding our communities, which will require us to reverse century-old trends toward centralization. We need to stop investing in Washington, and reinvest in the places we came from. Unlike our current season of national outrage, a turn toward localism stands a chance of actually yielding a happier, healthier republic. First of all, a renewed focus on local governance would lower the stakes of political conflict. Given the shared values within most communities, decisions made at lower levels of government are more likely to be consensus decisions. And when problems arise within communities, local politicians are better situated to hear stakeholders' concerns. A renewed focus on local governance would also encourage innovation in public policy. States are referred to as the "laboratories of democracy," but often they are not free to experiment because the federal government imposes one "solution" from above. Instead of laboratories, the states are treated as lab rats. This is a risky way to make policy. Top-down solutions are an all-or-nothing bet, with catastrophic in the case of failure. "Instead of laboratories, the states are treated as lab rats." Federalism offers a better way here as well. It allows states to tailor policies to their diverse cultures. But there is one more reason we need a renewed commitment to local governance. It has to do with something at the core of our national project: Self-government. The populist movements that are marching on Washington are motivated, in part, by a sense that they are being disregarded by their leaders. This loss of control and respect is an indignity-a reversal of the American social compact, which puts the people in charge. And it began with the decline of self-governing local communities that give meaningful roles to ordinary people. As usual, Tocqueville put it best. He wrote that "the township, at the center of the ordinary relations of life, serves as a field for the desire of public esteem." He understood that men and women desire esteem, and that for the vast majority of people esteem is earned close to home through service to others. That is the true beauty of localism. Hundreds of years after the Founding, it still offers our country the best way forward. Preserving Medicaid Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Ending Obama's National Zoning Board On July 16, 2015, President Obama's Department of Housing and Urban Development issued an innocuous-sounding new regulation that it said would "promote fair housing choice and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination." This "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" rule supposedly would only assist local communities by providing them with more data needed to comply with the Fair Housing Act of 1968. What the regulation really did, however, was empower unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. with the tools to act as a national zoning board. Under the new housing rule, HUD would review fair housing plans created by state and local governments using data created and stored by the federal government. HUD could then withhold federal grant money from state and local governments if it thought the plans were deficient. This new process would give HUD the power to control zoning laws in virtually every community in the country. The federal government could selectively starve local governments of resources if it doesn't like where they are approving new apartment complexes. In a July 2015 article in the Washington Times, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that the department's attempts to "legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse." I couldn't agree more. That is why Representative Gosar and I sent a letter signed by several colleagues to Secretary Carson this Friday asking him to fully rescind the July 2015 AFFH rule. "It is critical that we pursue real, sensible reforms to reduce poverty and improve the opportunities available to lower-income citizens at the local level," the letter reads. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWONtX6EwN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWONtX6EwN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jul 14 · lee

Healthcare town hall
July 11, 2017 Live Town Hall on Wednesday In response to the volume of requests for live discussion on healthcare, I am planning to focus my next Access Live town hall on healthcare. The event will take place on Wednesday, July 12 at 6:00 p.m. MT. I am planning to increase the limit of the number of people that can attend the event to 100,000 participants. Since joining the Senate in 2011, I have held monthly events where Utahns can be part of a dialogue with me. These events are regularly attended by phone by tens of thousands of Utahns from across the state. Hundreds of thousands of participants across the country regularly access the events online. To receive a phone call at the time of the event, people can register online now. People who want to stream the event live on their computer or mobile device can use this link when the event starts: lee.senate.gov/live I look forward to having you join me for this event. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 Ogden James V. Hansen Federal Building 324 25th Street Suite 1410 Ogden, Utah 84401 Phone: 801-392-9633 Fax: 801-392-9630 SaveSaveSaveSaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isLFb98ENy Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osLFb98ENy To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Tue, Jul 11 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: The Missing Ingredient in BCRA: Humility
June 30, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Congress Can Better Prevent Forest Fires Anyone who has spent time in the forested alpine highlands that surround Brian Head, Utah knows they are one of the state's many hidden treasures. People from all over the country come to this corner of Dixie National Forest to enjoy its natural beauty and utilize its resources. It has been devastating to watch a catastrophic wildfire burning across these mountains. I am grateful for the firefighters who are working around the clock in dangerous and difficult conditions. They deserve our support and prayers. In Utah, the only thing spreading faster than the fire is the wave of public opinion about it. Utahns are discussing who is to blame, how we got here, and what we can do to prevent more fires like this from starting in the future. This is an important discussion. As beautiful as the Dixie National Forest is, those who had observed it over the last few decades knew something was wrong. We knew that a catastrophic fire wasn't a question of if-it was a question of when. Like so many Western fires, this one was started by an individual who thought he was acting safely. This is a sobering reminder that wildfires can be started by anyone, anywhere. It's also worth pointing out that if this person hadn't started the fire, a fire of similar magnitude was likely to occur at a future date. For this reason, those who played a role in managing this forest share responsibility for this fire. Like many of Utah's forests, Dixie National Forest faces many threats besides fire, including beetle infestations and drought. The prolonged decimation of the timber industry in Utah has taken an important fire-management tool away from forest managers. Resistance to controlled burns has created dangerous levels of fuel build-up. Additionally, protracted lawsuits by activist environmental groups often tie the hands of local land managers and prevent them from taking the timely actions necessary to sustain forest health. It's easy to point fingers while fires rage, but I believe Congress deserves the most blame for the Brian Head Fire. After all, it is Congress that is responsible for passing laws that have resulted in the basket-case management of our national forests. As a member of Congress, I plan to do whatever I can to remedy the situation that is turning our forests into tinder boxes. It's easy to point fingers while fires rage, but I believe Congress deserves the most blame for the Brian Head Fire. After all, it is Congress that is responsible for passing laws that have resulted in the basket-case management of our national forests. Last Congress, I introduced the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act to expedite wildfire prevention projects in at-risk forests and wildlife habitats. The bill would give federal land managers firm deadlines for reviewing and approving projects and empower them to use proven wildfire prevention strategies like livestock grazing and timber harvesting. I plan to reintroduce a strengthened version of this bill that will empower state and local officials to prevent nearby forests from reaching the point of catastrophe. Any solution that restores our forests to good health must empower those who live closest to them. If this fire has taught us anything, it is that we don't have time to lose. Too many forests across the country are just as vulnerable as Dixie. While Brian Head is the largest fire in the country, other fires are already burning across the West and it is still early in the fire season. It is urgent that Congress fix the problem it created. As the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forest, and Mining, I plan to work with my colleagues to pass this reform. I will also be reaching out to local officials, land managers, and the people of Utah to learn how we can better steward the environment. Challenging Overly Broad Surveillance Authorities Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Let the States Lead on Drone Regulation Last week, drone industry executives told President Trump they needed more regulation, not less, before they could expand further - a man-bites-dog story if ever there was one. But the answer isn't to keep waiting on Washington. It's to make use of one of our nation's founding principles: federalism. For now, the drone industry is grounded because the Federal Aviation Agency hasn't written guidelines for drones that fly beyond the operator's line of sight. Rules are also absent for drone flights at night. It will take years for this bureaucratic behemoth to pass through all the procedural hoops and hurdles necessary to produce a comprehensive regulatory scheme. The agency itself predicts drones won't be fully integrated into our nation's airspace until 2025. But our rivals aren't waiting. The Chinese-based manufacturer DJI is dominating the drone market, winning 50 percent of sales in North America alone. The only North American market not dominated by DJI is for drones priced under $500, which are mostly toys. Meanwhile, drones are making home deliveries in Japan. They're providing medical supplies in Rwanda. And they're tracking poachers in South Africa. All around the world, drones are changing the economy. American communities and businesses could use drones for plenty of tasks, too, if only they were allowed. But right now Americans don't have the regulatory certainty they need to hire workers and turn their ideas into products. The drone industry will be stuck on the launch pad until this is fixed. That's why we're introducing a bill with our Democratic colleagues Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) to break the regulatory logjam and return power to states and local communities. The bill, titled the Drone Federalism Act, would recognize the right of states and local communities to govern drones within a specified zone of authority, the airspace under 200 feet. The FAA would still be responsible for the overall safety of the skies. But at this low altitude, state and local governments would be able to set guidelines for the "reasonable time, manner, and place" of drone flights. The bill also preserves the rights of every American by reaffirming the long held doctrine that owners control the immediate 200 feet of airspace above their property. The FAA would be prevented from authorizing the operation of an unmanned aircraft in the immediate reaches of airspace above a property without permission of the owner. Hobbyists would also be required so secure permission from the owner before flying a drone within 200 feet above a private held property. This bill is a logical extension of one of our founding principles, federalism. Below 200 feet, drones are almost exclusively a matter of local, not federal, concern. They affect pedestrian byways, community events, and the activities of first responders. They could also prove to be handy tools for state and local law enforcement, firefighting, disaster management, and environmental preservation. But until now, states and local communities have been shut out of the conversation. Not a single state, regional, or tribal authority serves on the 37-member Drone Advisory Committee to the FAA. Only one member, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, represents a local government. Yet the committee is considering pre-empting local regulations by assuming full jurisdiction over drone use, regardless of height. Such a move would stall the growth of the American drone industry. Our bill would stop this power grab in its tracks. It would give state and local authorities the clarity and authority they need to develop rules for local drone use. It would give the drone industry the certainty to invest, experiment, and expand. And it would give our economy a boost. Under the Drone Federalism Act, the sky's the limit for this promising new technology. We hope Congress will begin debate and pass it as soon as possible. This article first appeared in The Washington Times and was co-written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWUiPSjE9N Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWUiPSjE9N To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jun 30 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: The Missing Ingredient in BCRA: Humility
June 23, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln A Message from Senator Lee: The Missing Ingredient in the BRCA: Humility No, the Senate healthcare bill released yesterday does not repeal Obamacare. It doesn't even significantly reform American healthcare. It cuts taxes. It bails out insurance companies. It props up Obamacare through the next election. It lays out plans to slow Medicaid spending beginning in 2025, but that probably won't happen. And it leaves in place the ham-fisted federal regulations that have driven up family health insurance premiums by 140 percent since Obamacare was implemented. As the bill is currently drafted, I won't vote for it. On the other hand, I understand the opportunity Republicans have right now to help Americans get better, more affordable coverage. That's why I joined the Senate working group on healthcare reform with an open mind. I knew then, as I know now, that as one of the most conservative Republican Senators, I would have to compromise with the least conservative Republican Senators to get something done. And compromise I have! At the beginning of this process, I wanted a full repeal of Obamacare. Despite campaigning on that very thing for eight years, my Republican colleagues disagreed. So then I called for a partial repeal, like we passed in 2015 - and which conservatives were promised by our leaders in January. A partial repeal would at least force Congress to start over on a new system that could work better. Again, no. So then I advocated repealing Obamacare's regulations, which have been the primary drivers of spiking premiums. I repeated this suggestion at every single meeting of the working group, and at every members lunch for several weeks. Yet when the Better Care Reconciliation Act was unveiled yesterday, the core Obamacare regulations were largely untouched. Far short of "repeal," the Senate bill keeps the Democrats' broken system intact, just with less spending on the poor to pay for corporate bailouts and tax cuts. A cynic might say that the BCRA is less a Republican health care bill than a caricature of a Republican health care bill. Yet, for all that, I have not closed the door on voting for some version of it in the end. Conservatives have compromised on not repealing, on spending levels, tax credits, subsidies, corporate bailouts, Medicaid, and the Obamacare regulations. That is, on every substantive question in the bill. Having conceded to my moderate colleagues on all of the above, I now ask only that the bill be amended to include an opt-out provision, for states or even just for individuals. The reason Americans are divided about health care (like so many issues today) is that we don't know exactly how to fix it. Politicians hate to admit it, and partisans like to pretend otherwise. But it's true. And history teaches us that when we don't know how to solve a problem, the best thing to do is to experiment. We should test different ideas through a cooperative, bottom-up, trial-and-error process rather than imposing top-down, partisan power-plays that disrupt the lives of hundreds of millions of people at a time. Eight years ago Democrats created a one-size-fits-all national health care system… and it's collapsing around us. They couldn't even make the darn website work! Why do Republicans - who are supposedly skeptical of government miracle-working - expect our one-size-fits-all scheme to work any better? The only hope for actually solving the deep, challenging problems in our health care system is to let people try out approaches other than the ones a few dozen politicians thought up inside the D.C. bubble. And so, for all my frustrations about the process and my disagreements with the substance of BCRA, I would still be willing to vote for it if it allowed states and/or individuals to opt-out of the Obamacare system free-and-clear to experiment with different forms of insurance, benefits packages, and care provision options. Liberal states might try single-payer systems, while conservatives might emphasize health savings accounts. Some people embrace association health plans or so-called "medishare" ministry models. My guess is different approaches will work for different people in different places - like everything else in life. The only way to find out what does work is to find out what doesn't. We know the pre-Obamacare system was breaking down. Now we know Obamacare is failing too. I doubt the BCRA system would fare much better, or that the next Pelosi-Sanders-Warren scheme Democrats cook up wouldn't be even worse. To win my vote, the Republican health care bill must create a little space for states and individuals to sidestep Washington's arrogant incompetence, and see if they can do better. At some point Washington elites might at least entertain the possibility that we may not have all the answers. I think right now - with President Trump's shocking upset of the establishment still fresh in our minds - would be a good time for Congress to add a new ingredient to its legislative sausage: a dash of humility. To win my vote, the Republican health care bill must create a little space for states and individuals to sidestep Washington's arrogant incompetence, and see if they can do better. Recent history suggests they couldn't possibly do worse. Getting More of What We Want Out of Government Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: America First in the Americas The United States has long sought a balance between participating in international organizations that promote the spread of democracy and protecting the sovereignty of other countries. At times, this delicate balance has been lost and our ability to promote American interests has been diminished. Unfortunately, it appears our recent involvement with the Organization of American States has tipped toward undermining the sovereignty of other nations. The OAS was founded on the admirable principle that "Every State has the right to choose, without external interference, its political, economic, and social system and to organize itself in the way best suited to it." And for decades, the United States has been the single largest donor to the OAS. While the OAS has proven useful in opposing Communism and dictatorships like the ones in Cuba and Venezuela, some of its recent activities have contradicted its founding principle. The organization has pressured Latin American nations to adopt social policies favored by progressive elites, not their own people. Such initiatives, aided by U.S. funding, ignore the cultures of these countries and ultimately alienate their people from the United States. The OAS exerts pressure on countries through the resolutions of the General Assembly, executive actions of the Secretary General's office, and rulings of the Inter-American Court. The OAS has also used the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to force alien cultural practices on Latin American countries, including formal recommendations promoting abortion in countries whose legal, cultural and religious practices defend life. It has promoted abortion in countries party to the American Convention on Human Rights, which protects human beings from the moment of conception. Countries like Paraguay took measures in 2016 to strengthen and protect their own pro-life standards in reaction to pressure coming from the OAS and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The IACHR also has promoted redefining the institution of marriage, including the 2016 Duque vs Colombia case where the IACHR stated that Colombia's - at the time - traditional definition of marriage reflected, "an obtuse and stereotyped understanding of what a family is." Provocations like that serve no useful purpose for the United States, and indeed hinder constructive engagement with the family-oriented countries of Latin America. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be spent overseas to advocate for political issues that aren't even settled here at home. We must ensure that the $41.9 billion we spend on foreign assistance every year does not promote an agenda that many foreigners and Americans alike find repugnant. Trump has indicated his desire to rebalance our foreign policy to better serve the American people. The State Department can significantly further this goal by ending the progressive cultural imperialism that the OAS spread over the past eight years. Our national interest lies in promoting security and economic prosperity for Americans, not in telling other democracies what to do. Respecting the cultural and religious differences of our allies should be a top priority for an administration that campaigned on breaking away from business-as-usual foreign policy. A longer version of this op-ed first appeared in The Houston Chronicle. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iWNQo0U2WN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oWNQo0U2WN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, Jun 23 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: An Obamacare Repeal Update
May 12, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: An Obamacare Repeal Update This week a working group of United States senators began meeting on a bi-weekly basis to reach a consensus on how to repeal and replace Obamacare. We are still very early in the process but it is clear already that there is much work to be done before we can find the votes needed to reform our failing health care system. The first topic the group focused on was rolling back Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, a program that has given insurance cards to 11 million able bodied adults without kids at a cost of $64 billion a year without improving their actual health care outcomes. Conservatives in the room have three big priorities when it comes to Medicaid reform: 1) ending the enhanced federal spending on Medicaid expansion recipients; 2) setting an inflation rate for the per capita allotment that is fiscally responsible; and 3) increasing the flexibility of states to best provide quality health care for the low-income and vulnerable populations in their state. Unfortunately, the House health care bill concedes that states will continue to receive federal Medicaid dollars for the new expansion population. This categorical expansion is already a huge concession and should, at the very least, be part of a program reform that grows at a low rate closely resembling historical growth. That is why many of my colleagues and I want to put the reformed per capita allotment Medicaid program on a sustainable fiscal path with a growth rate of CPI-U. Conservatives in the room have three big priorities when it comes to Medicaid reform: 1) ending the enhanced federal spending on Medicaid expansion recipients; 2) setting an inflation rate for the per capita allotment that is fiscally responsible; and 3) increasing the flexibility of states to best provide quality health care for the low-income and vulnerable populations in their state. Hopefully we will be able to also include additional flexibility for states to innovate and adopt new mechanisms that serve the unique needs of each state's vulnerable populations. The health care working group also addressed the individual insurance market, where conservatives pushed to repeal as many of Obamacare's insurance regulations as possible. The Obamacare regulations drive up the cost of health care the most. They force insurers to cover everyone at the same price without respect to age, gender, or health status--even if these customers use drastically different amounts of health care each year or if they wait to purchase coverage until they fall ill. Another major regulation forces insurers to pay for an expansive list of "essential health benefits," even when the customer doesn't need or want to pay for that coverage. Finally, another burdensome regulation tightly dictates how much insurers must pay out on each health care plan. All of these regulations have driven up the price of premiums by 100 percent nationwide--in some places monthly premiums cost more than someone's mortgage. Conservatives would like to clear the books of Obamacare's most costly regulations and free the states to regulate their markets how they wish-even if that means re-applying these regulations to their market. Should this not be possible, we should at the very least give states the ability to choose which Obamacare regulations they do or do not want to keep. All states would start off without any of these federal health insurance regulations and then they would be able to pick and choose which ones they wanted to keep. After the debate in the House, it is no longer news that the differences between the moderates and conservatives in the Republican Party on health care policy are substantial. It is unclear right now whether they can be bridged. But my colleagues and I will keep trying. We will keep meeting every week to hash out our differences and find common ground until we get something done that will lower premiums for millions of Americans while strengthening our safety net programs for those who truly need them. Restoring Trust in the FBI Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Bringing Higher Education into the 21st Century Over the past 20 years, the price of wireless service has fallen 46 percent, the price of software has fallen 68 percent, the price of televisions has fallen 96 percent, and the quality of these services and technologies has improved markedly. But over that same time, the price of college tuition has risen 199 percent, and most parents would agree that the quality has not greatly improved. But if prices typically fall as competition spurs quality advancement, as seen by the technological achievement of the last two decades, how has that not happened in education? There is no one simple answer to this question, but the different regulatory environment facing higher education is a significant factor. One-hundred years ago, there were six regional, voluntary, non-governmental institutions that helped universities and secondary schools coordinate curricula, degrees, and transfer credits. These institutions had no power to prevent the creation of higher education institutions. This changed with the 1952 GI Bill. After congressional investigators found thousands of sham colleges were created overnight to take advantage of the benefits provided in the first 1944 GI Bill, the federal government turned these voluntary institutions into accreditors. As the federal government steadily ramped up its financial support for higher education benefits, it continued outsourcing the vetting of higher education institutions to these regional accreditors. This make-shift system worked well for decades, but in recent years these regional accreditors have come under heavy criticism for both lax oversight over some online institutions and a heavy hand in killing some promising innovations. No regulator is ever going to be perfect, but if they are going to be gatekeepers for a sector of the economy as important as higher education they must be transparent and accountable to the American people. Unfortunately, our nation's regional accreditors are neither. They do not share how they make their accrediting decisions with anyone and their board members do not face accountability at the ballot box. This needs to change. That is why I have introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act. This bill would allow states to create their own accreditation system for institutions that want to be eligible for federal financial aid dollars. Each state could then be as open or closed to higher education innovation as they saw fit. They could even stick with their current regional accreditors if they chose to do so. But they could also enable innovators like Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, who recently signed a deal with the online provider Kaplan University, to go even further in their mission to expand higher education access to those who had limited access before. Our higher education system should not be held captive to 100 year-old institutions that were never intended to be regulatory gatekeepers in the first place. Instead we should allow those communities that want to experiment with higher education policy the freedom and accountability to do so. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isF2osd2Nk Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osF2osd2Nk To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, May 12 · lee

The Laudable Pursuit: Another Step Closer to Repealing Obamacare
May 5, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: The First Step Towards Revoking Obama's Land Grab Every time I travel back to Utah I hear from constituents who are paying higher and higher premiums every year, now sometimes higher than their mortgage payments. This has to stop. Now more than ever, Republicans need to repeal Obamacare. Just this week, Aetna announced they would be pulling out of Virginia's Obamacare marketplace entirely, leaving 27 counties in the state with just one health insurance provider. And in Iowa, Medica, the last Obamacare insurance provider in that state, announced they too would be leaving the marketplace, leaving tens of thousands of Iowans without any health insurance options at all. Ideally, Congress would have repealed Obamacare months ago and both chambers could be working on replacements right now. The initial plan was to have the 2015 repeal bill, which every non-freshman member of the House and Senate already voted for, on President Trump's desk to sign on Inauguration Day. But for whatever reasons another path was chosen and now five months later the House of Representatives passed a new repeal bill Thursday that will soon be moving to the Senate. Unfortunately that bill contains numerous fatal procedural flaws and much of it will have to be rewritten. In fact, it will probably have to be reenvisoned entirely. Fortunately a diverse group of Republican senators (including moderate and conservative members) have begun working on a new health care framework that can both get 51 votes in the Senate and survive the chambers arcane reconciliation rules. It is still far too early to tell what this group will produce, but the end result could end up being a huge win for the American people. Ideally a final product would put Medicaid on a sustainable fiscal path while minimizing disruptions in care for those currently enrolled in the program. It would take steps towards equalizing the tax treatment of health insurance. And it would find a way to better finance health care for low income Americans and those with pre-existing conditions without disrupting the health care market for the rest of the country. At a minimum this would mean repealing all or most of the Obamacare insurance regulations or at least require states to opt in to them. A bill like the one outlined above would deliver real relief to millions of Americans who are paying unthinkably high health insurance premiums for benefits they can rarely claim because the deductibles on their insurance plans are so high. It would also protect those vulnerable populations that are most in need of public health care assistance including expectant mothers, children, the disabled, and those with pre-existing conditions. "Ideally a final product would put Medicaid on a sustainable fiscal path while minimizing disruptions in care for those currently enrolled in the program. It would take steps towards equalizing the tax treatment of health insurance. And it would find a way to better finance health care for low income Americans and those with pre-existing conditions without disrupting the health care market for the rest of the country." I can't promise the Senate's final product will look exactly like the one sketched out above. But I can promise I will fight as hard as possible to make Obamacare repeal a reality. Protecting Personal Information From Government Intrusion Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Fighting for Family Flexibility Every working American wishes their paycheck was bigger. But for working parents, sometimes time is more valuable than money. Sometimes being there for that doctor's appointment, baseball game, or parent-teacher's conference is worth more than time and a half. And since 1978, hourly-paid government employees have been allowed to choose between taking overtime pay and comp time. If they worked more than 40 hours one week, they could take a bigger paycheck home that week, or bank that time and use it for family priorities when it was needed. But if you work on an hourly basis in the private sector, this practice is illegal. Employers are not allowed to come to an agreement with their employees about how their overtime is used. This double standard needs to end which is why I am so pleased Rep. Martha Roby's (R-AL) "Working Families Flexibility Act" passed the House of Representatives earlier this week. Roby's bill, and a companion bill I introduced in the Senate, allows employers to offer their employees the option of taking comp time or overtime pay, both accrued at one and a half times the overtime hours worked. Employers would not be able to force comp time on their employees and employees would not be able to take comp time whenever they wanted. Instead, the legislation requires employers and employees to come to a written agreement on how and when accrued overtime can be exchanged for comp time. If an employee does not want a comp time option, then they do not have to sign an agreement with their employer allowing them to do so. If an employee wants to cash out all of their accrued time at the traditional overtime rate, they can do so at any time. If an employee has any unused comp time at the end of the year, employers must cash that time out at the traditional overtime rate. Some on the left have made some hysterical claims about the bill, asserting that it "ends the 40-hour work week" or "ends time and a half pay for overtime." As the protections mentioned above make clear, nothing could be further from the truth. The bill maintains all existing employee protections, including the current 40-hour workweek and overtime accrual, and provides additional safeguards to ensure that the choice to use comp time is voluntary. What the bill does do is offer millions of working American families the same flexibility that public sector employees have enjoyed for almost 40 years. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues on moving this bill through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on to the Senate floor, and then to President Trump's desk. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isIehoI2N7 Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osIehoI2N7 To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
· Fri, May 5 · lee