Warwick Beacon: Delegation vows fight to save best of Obamacare

Warwick Beacon: Delegation vows fight to save best of Obamacare

By John Howell

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had people laughing at a rally to save the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans have already taken the first steps to dismantle it in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and their impending control of both the House and Senate.

Whitehouse wasn’t looking to offer comic relief Sunday afternoon as more than 340 people packed the Johnston Senior Center and another 100 were forced to stand outside because the center meeting room was at fire code capacity. The full Rhode Island congressional delegation that sponsored the rally spoke. Joining them to point out what repeal of Obamacare could mean to Rhode Islanders and how that might affect those on Medicare and Medicaid was Gov. Gina Raimondo and those on the frontlines of delivering and receiving health care.

Whitehouse likened what Republicans are doing to pushing someone out of an airplane and telling them as they are plummeting to the ground that somebody is working on building them a parachute.

“They say ‘trust us,’” he said of Republicans. “Well, no thank you.” Whitehouse wants to see a plan before gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

A number of speakers spoke about popular features of the ACA, often called Obamacare, including the inclusion of children up to age 27 in their family health plan, banning insurance companies from placing lifetime and annual limits on health expenses and the denial of coverage on pre-existing conditions.

“Many of you are now coming into the office to seek preventive care and you give us an opportunity to diagnose and treat problems early because of health insurance,” said Dr. Nitin S. Damle, president of the American College of Physicians that represents 145,000 internal medicine physicians nationally and internationally. He said with repeal of the act, 22 million could become uninsured and 52 million people nationwide and 164,000 Rhode Islanders with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage.

To cheers and applause, he said, “affordable high quality health care should be a fundamental right of every American just as public education.”

Senator Jack Reed and Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline echoed that sentiment.

“It’s a right, not a fringe benefit,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena who hosted the rally.

In his remarks Reed said the percentage of uninsured Rhode Islanders has dropped from 12 percent to 4.5 percent under the act. He said under the act, 100,000 Rhode Islanders who previously didn’t have health insurance are now covered and he fears changes in Medicare and Medicaid and that health insurance premiums “will skyrocket.”

Raimondo likewise was concerned for those who might lose coverage without the act. She said the state is “within a whisper” of universal healthcare coverage, adding, “We want it in Rhode Island and we’re not going backwards. If we make enough noise, they will listen.”

Raimondo urged those seeking to save the act to join with the Protect Our Healthcare Coalition and share their story. The email for the newly formed group is ProtectRIHealth@gmail.com. One of the coalition’s organizers, Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the Rhode Island Economic Progress Institute, said the group is not only looking to do what it can to save the act on a national level but also the program in the state.

Joanne McGunnagle, executive director of the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP), found it difficult to imagine what might happen if the ACA is dismantled. McGunnagle was one of several community action program directors to attend the rally. CCAP operates four local clinics serving about 15,000 people.

“This is a basic human need,” McGunnagle said of the services provided by CCAP. Medicaid covers much of the cost of services, but McGunnagle is hearing, like others, that changes could be coming to that program as well as Medicare that would limit coverage.

Gina Rombly, a mother and owner of a small design and video company, told how she and her husband believed they had found affordable health care only to have the insurance company fail, leaving them short of their premiums and stuck with medical bills. It was at that point that the ACA was passed and Rombly who had been diagnosed with stage 3 uterine cancer couldn’t be denied coverage. Now considered cured, Rombly said, “we depend on this [health coverage].”

“Take away the bad parts [of the ACA]. But there’s so much good that it’s done…you can’t just take it away and not have something to replace it with.”

Langevin called the actions of the House and Senate Republicans to dismantle the ACA an “incredible low point” in his legislative career. He was critical of Republicans for not working to amend the legislation.

“We all know ACA isn’t perfect,” he said, “there’s so much we can do to make it better.”

Langevin talked about Evan Huddon of Warwick, who is battling spina bifida and hydrocephalus. He said the Huddons would have never been able to afford the $3 million in medical costs to help Evan without health care.

“It shouldn’t be for just those who can afford it,” he said.

Langevin vowed to save the good elements of ACA.

“This fight isn’t over, it’s just beginning,” he said.

WPRI: Hundreds attend rally in Rhode Island to save Obamacare

WPRI: Hundreds attend rally in Rhode Island to save Obamacare

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Hundreds of people joined Rhode Island’s Democratic congressional delegation and other top leaders Sunday to rally in support of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have promised to repeal.

“They had seven years to build an alternative,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said to a crowd of hundreds at the Johnston Senior Center. “And what’ve they got? Nothing.”

Trump and Republican leaders have said they plan to replace the health law with something else, though the alternative proposal has not been publicly disclosed.

“It’s like asking someone to jump out of an airplane with no parachute, and say ‘trust me, we’ll build a parachute for you while you’re falling,’” Whitehouse said.

The Affordable Care Act has been credited with bringing the country’s uninsured rate down to its lowest rate in history. It also prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against customers for pre-existing conditions, allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and expanded Medicaid to more Americans under a certain income level. States had a choice to opt in or out of the Medicaid expansion. But Republicans say the law is too expensive and has not done enough to bring down costs.

“This is a program that is helping millions of people across the country,” Sen. Jack Reed said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “You can’t take it away, particularly without any replacement. That’ll just cause a new hardship and undue economic uncertainty.”

In Rhode Island, about 100,000 people have health insurance as a direct result of Obamacare: 30,000 are insured through HealthSource RI, the state marketplace set up under the law, and 70,000 are insured through the Medicaid expansion.

“If we make enough noise, we can try to prevent this,” Gov. Gina Raimondo told the crowd. “We will prevent this, and we’ll save lives.”

So many people attended the event that the building reached capacity and police had to keep dozens more attendees outside. Similar rallies took place across the country, including one headlined by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Gina Rombley, a small business owner, told the crowd about her personal experience with Obamacare. She said before the health law was enacted, she tried to get insurance on the private market. When her insurance company didn’t pay her medical providers, she found out they were under investigation for doing the same to other customers. She ended up being on the hook for the bills, and now has insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“When it came time to enroll, we were probably the first people on that computer,” Rombley said. “I depend on it.”

Both the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions last week that set the stage for the repeal of Obamacare.

“It was the most reckless, irresponsible decision I’ve seen since I got to Congress,” Congressman David Cicilline said. He said many of his colleagues in Congress tell him they plan to keep the more favorable aspects of Obamacare, but still won’t disclose the details of their replacement law.

“Where’s your plan?” he said. “Let us look at it and understand.”

Cicilline’s House colleague from Rhode Island, Congressman Jim Langevin, said there’s no reason to repeal the law.

“Fix the problems that may exist with it, but don’t repeal it,” Langevin said. “It’s doing too much good.”

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, has said Obamacare is “collapsing,” citing high premiums and costs.

“We have plenty of ideas on how to replace it,” Ryan recently told reporters on Capitol Hill, declining to go into detail. “You’ll see as the weeks and months unfold.”

President-elect Trump has said he wants the replacement plan to pass as soon as possible after the repeal of Obamacare. He has signaled support for keeping some aspects of the law, including allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans and the prohibition on discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions.

Progressive Charlestown: Langevin denounces Republican actions to repeal Obamacare

Progressive Charlestown: Langevin denounces Republican actions to repeal Obamacare

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) voted in strong opposition to S.Con.Res. 3, the GOP budget proposal that begins the process of dismantling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law otherwise known as Obamacare.

The resolution, which passed by a vote of 227 to 198, sets up an expedited process for consideration of a full repeal bill that Republicans plan to introduce later.

“Voting for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was one of my proudest moments in Congress. Before its passage, I heard from countless constituents who were unable to afford health insurance coverage. I met families bankrupted by medical bills in the wake of devastating accidents. I spoke with young people working entry-level jobs while saddled with student loan debt and mounting bills.

“Six years later, 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage through this historic and groundbreaking law, bringing the rate of uninsured individuals down to 8.6 percent, the lowest on record.

“Health care costs – though still on the rise – have increased at a slower rate, as the system shifts towards preventative medicine. Doctors are being rewarded for keeping patients healthy, and patients are being encouraged to receive regular medical attention.

“It is not a perfect law, but it has been a lifesaving reform for millions of families, and to throw it out wholesale without any regard for the tens of millions of Americans who stand to lose coverage is not only reckless, it’s unconscionable.

“Throughout President Obama’s Administration, House Republicans voted more than 60 times to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act but refused to come to the table to strengthen and improve the law. And despite having had six years to develop an alternative, we voted today without any replacement plans in hand.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act could have enormous consequences, especially for the people in this country who can least afford health coverage.

“Seniors could lose essential Medicare benefits, people with disabilities and low-income children could lose access to critical coverage, middle-class families could see premiums begin to skyrocket, Rhode Island could lose thousands of jobs, and insurance companies would resume control of Americans’ health care.

“To dismantle the Affordable Care Act is to ignore the needs of our constituents. And to my constituents in Rhode Island who have shared their stories of how health care reform has changed their lives, I say this: we will continue to fight.
“We will fight for the economic security of American families, and we will fight for the health and well-being of the American people.”

Defense News: Trump Benched Mattis Before His House Hearing. What Happened?

Defense News: Trump Benched Mattis Before His House Hearing. What Happened?

By Joe Gould WASHINGTON — Democrats, and some Republicans, are counting on Gen. James Mattis, Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary, to be a check on the impulsive, inexperienced president-elect.

But the president-elect just checked Mattis.

Trump’s transition team benched the former Marine Corps four-star just as he was to appear before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. And in a single stroke, the transition offended HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, complicated Mattis’ confirmation and undercut the central argument in Mattis’ favor with Democrats — that he can stand up to Trump.

Because Mattis retired in 2013, he needs Congress to pass legislation to waive a seven-year cooling-off period for uniformed leaders before he can take the Pentagon’s top civilian job. Until Tuesday night, Mattis was committed — and “eager,” Thornberry said — to testify before the HASC after his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, as a show of deference to the principle of civilian control of the military. The waiver applies to a 70-year-old law, and it would be the second ever after 1950.

“Where Gen. Mattis was willing to come and testify on this topic before the House Armed Services Committee and the Trump White House said ‘no,’ clearly that concerns me, that they’re not listening to their own secretary of defense,” said HASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I. “On something like this, they could have and should have deferred to his wishes.”

House Democrats also accused their Republican counterparts of ceding the legislature’s power to the incoming president. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told Defense News that Republicans privately expressed misgivings but were unable to rally for a tough stand.

“Early on, I think, there was some muscle, but I think it just atrophied,” she said, adding: “For eight years there’s been a drumbeat from Republicans about the president rolling over Congress. That’s the very first act, even before [Trump] is president, and they’re whimpering.”

The waiver faces a House floor vote Friday, where it is expected to pass in spite of surging Democratic opposition. The waiver passed the Senate 81-17 on Thursday in a largely bipartisan vote.

HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, voted for the waiver, but said Wednesday of the transition team’s action: “It certainly sets a very bad precedent for a position that requires working very closely with Congress.”

“I’m very disappointed, I believe it’s a mistake. The legislative branch is being asked to deliberate and take an action without [Mattis’] input,” Turner said.

Through the Senate waiver vote, Mattis was the only Cabinet nominee Democrats could have unilaterally blocked. But many Democrats were willing to approve the waiver because of their high regard for Mattis, a former chief of US Central Command with 44 years of military service and a tough but thoughtful reputation.

Yet a day after Thornberry announced Mattis would appear at the HASC, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., broke the news to reporters Wednesday that Trump’s transition team had shut it down. This after Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, endured the first day of a lengthy, bruising confirmation hearing.

Trump transition spokeswoman Alleigh Marre, in a statement, said Mattis was instead focusing Thursday on his Senate testimony.

At the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis breezed through his three-hour confirmation hearing, in which lawmakers from both parties made clear they expect him to stand up to Trump and his White House national security team.

Mattis obliged with a warmer take than his presumptive boss on the Iran nuclear deal and NATO, and a cooler take on Russia. He also said he would forcefully advocate for his views.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member on the SASC, told Mattis that “many have supported the waiver legislation in your confirmation because they believe you will be, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, ‘the saucer that cools the coffee.’ ”

Mattis at turns did side with Trump. In reference to Trump’s Twitter criticisms of the F-35 Lightning II program, which has suffered from major cost-overruns and delays, he said: “The president-elect has talked about the cost of it, but he has in no way shown a lack of support for the program; he just wants the best bang for the buck.”

Still, there is reportedly strife within Trump’s national security team over who will get top jobs in the Defense Department — and who gets to make those decisions. Mattis was rejecting large numbers of candidates offered by the transition team for several top posts, according to The Washington Post.

On Mattis’s nonappearance, HASC member Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said the retired general “won’t tolerate for long” being boxed in, adding: “This was a very bad move by the incoming administration, bad for us and bad for them because I don’t think Mattis will put up with being jerked around. Period.”

At Thursday afternoon’s HASC hearing, the no-show fueled a partisan row, but the waiver passed in a symbolic 34-28 vote along party lines. Democrats fumed the transition team had made the committee irrelevant, and while they were confident in Mattis, they said they could not change a 70-year-old law without the chance to question him.

HASC ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith, argued the committee should have held out and refused to vote on the waiver until Trump’s team let Mattis appear.

“In this critically, critically important matter, who is going to be the secretary of defense, and civilian control of the military, the incoming president’s team has decided the House Armed Services Committee is irrelevant,” said Smith, D-Wash. “We are abdicating our authority on this committee, and I think that is an enormous mistake.”

An annoyed Thornberry had explained the transition team informed him Tuesday night Mattis would not appear, adding: “I think that was a mistake.”

“Let me be clear: Gen. Mattis was willing and eager to do so. I talked to him personally. He gladly agreed to answer our questions about the waiver or other topics we might have,” Thornberry said.

“I have complete confidence that Gen. Mattis would have answered our questions in a way that adds confidence to the wisdom of his selection,” Thornberry said. “It would have added strength to his position and gotten the partnership between him and our committee off to a good start. He recognized those advantages immediately. Unfortunately, short-sightedness prevailed.”

Still, Thornberry argued that Democratic claims of a Constitutional crisis were a stretch, noting that Gen. George Marshall did not appear before Congress, when Congress granted him a waiver in 1950.

“Men and women are risking their lives all over the world, they need a secretary of defense,” he said.

NK Standard Times: EB announces more jobs for 2017

NK Standard Times: EB announces more jobs for 2017

By SHAUN KIRBY

WARWICK—After a stop at their Groton, Conn. facility earlier that morning, officials from Electric Boat met with state legislative leaders in Warwick Monday to announce its plans to increase job positions in Quonset. Gov. Gina Raimondo was on hand, along with Senators Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, and a handful of state leaders. 

“When I took office a couple years ago, I pledged my administration would move decisively to give Rhode Islanders the training they needed to fill jobs at Electric Boat,” said Raimondo in her opening comments at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick.

According to Jeffrey Geiger, President of General Dynamics Electric Boat, the submarine contractor hopes to hire approximately 2,000 new jobs in 2017, 650 of which are expected to be in Quonset. With 11 out of 15 submarines contracted to be built for the U.S. Navy under construction, Geiger expects more jobs to be created by the 2020s.
Geiger added that approximately 80 percent of the U.S. Navy’s submarine work is done by Electric Boat, with another 20 percent at the Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Virginia. He said that EB typically builds two Virginia-class, nuclear-powered submarines a year. With the new Columbia-class submarine in design phases and expected to begin construction in 2018, the Navy is expected to tap even more into EB’s resources and manpower.

“I believe there is a much higher probability for the future to increase beyond what we are currently projecting because of the need and roles these subs play,” said the EB president. “This signals only good things for the communities we operate in.”

Raimondo announced the approval of $3.6 million to hire and train nearly 500 workers at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility through the Real Jobs RI program. The initiative, which began in April 2015, currently holds approximately $15 million in federal and state monies to help fund 26 workforce training partnerships across the state, one of which is with Electric Boat.

“These programs are going to make sure Rhode Islanders get these jobs,” said the governor. “I couldn’t be more proud to be the governor of a state that makes the most sophisticated ships in the world.”

Electric Boat also received over $360,000 in grant funds last year for job training initiatives through the Real Jobs RI program. Geiger said on Monday that the Quonset Point facility, which currently has approximately 3,500 workers, expects to employ nearly 5,500 by the 2020s. The submarine contractor and the state are subsequently placing a heavy emphasis on partnerships with local career and technical programs, including those in the Chariho and Coventry school districts.

“We have a lot of programs in process today,” said Geiger. “The initial results are very encouraging and exciting.”

In North Kingstown, Superintendent Philip Auger said that although the district does not currently have a career and technical partnership with EB, it is currently pursuing one.
“[The Rhode Island Dept. of Education] knows we have a big interest in establishing some kind of training program,” he said Tuesday. “In the next week or two, I am looking to be meeting with Electric Boat representatives.”

Michael Healey, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Dept. of Labor and Training (DLT), said on Tuesday that 64 workers currently employed at Electric Boat will receive ‘up-skill’ training at the Community College of Rhode Island and New England Institute of Technology in order to move into different, high-skilled positions within the company.

“They are workers already employed by EB, but have expressed desire in wanting to do something different,” he said. “They don’t have these skills, and that is what the training program is for.”

Raimondo and Geiger praised Rhode Island’s congressional delegation for securing federal monies over the past year to help fund labor training and hiring programs. Reed and U.S. Congressman James Langevin gave praise to Electric Boat and Rhode Island’s legislative leaders, in turn.

“The real credit goes to the men and women at Electric Boat,” said Reed. “They build the best, most sophisticated war craft in the world, ahead of schedule and ahead of budget.”

“We are proud of the workforce and product [Electric Boat] produces,” said Langevin. “At the end of the day, it really is a team effort.”

Projo: Congress OKs first step to dismantle Obamacare

Projo: Congress OKs first step to dismantle Obamacare

By ALAN FRAM and ANDREW TAYLOR The Associated Press WASHINGTON – Ascendant Republicans drove a budget through Congress on Friday that gives them an early but critical victory in their crusade to scrap President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote trains the spotlight on whether they and Donald Trump can deliver on repeated pledges to not just erase that statute but replace it.
Demonstrating the GOP’s willingness to plunge into a defining but risky battle, the House used a near party-line 227-198 roll call to approve a budget that prevents Senate Democrats from derailing a future bill, thus far unwritten, annulling and reshaping Obama’s landmark 2010 law. The budget, which won Senate approval early Thursday, does not need the president’s signature.

Rhode Island Representatives David Cicilline and James Langevin voted “no.”
An estimated 70,000 Rhode Islanders were added to the Medicaid rolls since 2014 as part of the state’s implementation of the Act.

“Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans are putting the health and well-being of millions of working families at risk just to settle a political score,” U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., said in a statement. “It’s one of the worst and most reckless things I’ve ever seen in this town.”

If the effort succeeds, Cicilline said, nearly 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will find it “next to impossible…to get health coverage.”

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act could have enormous consequences, especially for the people in this country who can least afford health coverage,” Langevin said in a statement. “Seniors could lose essential Medicare benefits, people with disabilities and low-income children could lose access to critical coverage, middle-class families could see premiums begin to skyrocket, Rhode Island could lose thousands of jobs, and insurance companies would resume control of Americans’ health care.

Langevin vowed to “continue to fight” efforts to repeal the law.
“The ‘Unaffordable’ Care Act will soon be history!” Trump tweeted Friday in a dig at the statute’s name, the Affordable Care Act. Trump takes the presidential oath next Friday.

But the real work looms in coming months as the new administration and congressional Republicans write binding legislation to erase much of the health care law and replace it with a GOP version. Republicans still have internal divisions over what that would look like, though past GOP proposals have cut much of the existing law’s federal spending and eased coverage requirements while relying more on tax benefits and letting states make decisions.

Friday’s final vote was preceded by debate that saw hyperbole on both sides and underscored how the two parties have alternate-universe views of Obama’s overhaul. Democrats praised it for extending coverage to tens of millions of Americans, helping families afford policies and seniors buy prescriptions, while Republicans focused on the rising premiums and deductibles and limited access to doctors and insurers that have plagued many.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the health care law was “so arrogant and so contrary to our founding principles” and had not delivered on Obama’s promises to lower costs and provide more choice.

“We have to step in before things get worse. This is nothing short of a rescue mission,” Ryan said.

“Our experimentation in Soviet-style central planning of our health care system has been an abject failure,” said freshman Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Ryan was peddling “mythology” and said the GOP was moving toward making things worse for health care consumers.
“They want to cut benefits and run. They want to cut access and run,” she said of Republicans.

“This is a sad day in the history of this country as Republicans begin the process of destroying health care in America,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., who said the GOP has no replacement in hand.

“All you have is smoke and mirrors, and the American people are getting ready to get screwed,” he said.

Approval of the budget means Senate Democrats won’t be allowed to filibuster the future repeal-and-replace bill – a pivotal advantage for Republicans. They control the Senate 52-48, but it takes 60 votes to end filibusters, which are endless procedural delays that can scuttle legislation.

Congressional Republicans have made annulling Obama’s law and replacing it a top goal for the past seven years. GOP rifts and an Obama veto prevented them from achieving anything other than holding scores of votes that served as political messaging.

Trump also made targeting Obama’s statute a primary target during his campaign. At his news conference Wednesday, Trump – who’s supplied few details of what he wants – said his emerging plan will be “far less expensive and far better” than the statute.

Despite their conceptual unity, plenty of Republicans have shown skittishness in recent days about the political repercussions of charging into a battle that, with Trump in the White House, puts enacting new laws within reach.
Many congressional Republicans expressed opposition to leaders’ initial emphasis on first passing a repeal bill and then focusing on a replacement – a process that could produce a gap of months or longer. Trump has also pushed Congress to act fast.

Twenty million Americans are covered by Obama’s expansion of Medicaid or by policies sold on exchanges, and millions of others have benefited from the coverage requirements It has imposed on insurers. Many Republicans have insisted on learning how their party will re-craft the nation’s $3 trillion-a-year health care system before voting to void existing programs.

There are internal GOP chasms over Republican leaders’ plans to use their bill to halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood and pare Medicaid coverage. There are also disagreements over how to pay for the GOP replacement, with many Republicans leery of Ryan’s proposal to tax part of the value of some health insurance provided by employers.

Even with their disputes, the GOP’s rallying behind their budget spotlighted the political imperative facing Republicans to deliver on a battle cry that has sustained them for years.

Moving ahead on the budget was “a bottom-line, party survival vote,” said Thomas P. Miller, a health care authority at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

 

RINPR: RI Delegation Says Unverified Claims Against Trump Must Be Vetted

RINPR: RI Delegation Says Unverified Claims Against Trump Must Be Vetted

By Ian Donnis

Members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation say unverified claims alleging collusion between the Russian government and the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump need to be scrutinized.

“Like all Americans, Senator Reed finds these allegations extremely disturbing,” said Chip Unruh, spokesman for US Senator Jack Reed. “He will wait for facts before jumping to conclusions. But this is yet another example of why an independent select committee is needed to quickly and carefully examine the evidence and ensure the American people get the truth.”

Trump has flatly dismissed as false allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russian intelligence services.

Members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation reacted cautiously to the details, but said the allegations underscore the need for a careful review of the information.

“These new allegations are obviously serious, but we don’t have all the facts,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, in a statement. “We do know that the Russian government deliberately hacked into private emails and spread propaganda in an attempt to sway American voters and undermine confidence in our democracy. We do know that the Russians have a long history of using surveillance to gather compromising information on visitors. The American people have the right to know whether, and precisely to what extent, the Russian government may have coordinated with the Trump campaign, or may have compromising material on the President-elect.”

“We will learn more when the leaders of the intelligence community brief the Senate later this week,” Whitehouse continued. “Congress has an ongoing role in getting to the bottom of Russian meddling and connections, and in making sure no foreign power can influence future elections. That’s why I continue to support the creation of a special committee in the Senate for this purpose.”

Congressman Jim Langevin sounded a similar theme.

“We know, without question, that Russia executed a plan to interfere with and influence the 2016 presidential election,” Langevin said. “Recent unsubstantiated reports have indicated that associates of the President-elect may have had contact with Russian agents during the campaign. While I have no reason to trust the veracity of these claims, answering questions like this is precisely why I have called on Speaker Ryan to create a Select Committee on Cybersecurity and why I have joined every one of my House Democratic colleagues in sponsoring a bill to create an independent commission to investigate the hacks. Any attempt to influence an election is an attack on our democracy and must be fully investigated and responded to.”

Congressman David Cicilline added, “We already know that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to assist Donald Trump’s campaign – even President-elect Trump finally conceded this fact during his press conference earlier [Wednesday]. What remains unknown is the full scale of their efforts to undermine the foundations of American democracy at home and our interests across the globe. While I cannot speak directly to the allegations that were raised last night regarding the President-elect’s conduct, what’s important now is that an independent, bipartisan commission fully investigate Russia’s actions and uncover all the facts so we ensure this never happens again.”

ABC6: Study: RI could lose 12,000 jobs if Obamacare repealed

ABC6: Study: RI could lose 12,000 jobs if Obamacare repealed

By Samantha Fenlon

Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation is fighting hard against Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

“I’m going to fight with everything I have to make sure that I speak specifically against that repeal and ultimately I’m going to vote no,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.

Congressman Langevin cites a new report that finds the state stands to lose some 12,000 jobs in 2019 if the repeal happens.

“It will come potentially from the construction sector, the real estate sector, the retail sales sector,” said Congressman Langevin. “And, most especially a third of it will come from the health care direct related jobs in Rhode Island.”

With President Elect Trump pushing Congress to act quickly Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday he will aim to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time.

“This is about people’s lives we need to act before things get worse. Remember this is a rescue mission. We are in the midst of a rescue mission to save the families who are getting caught up in the death spiral that has become Obamacare,” said Speaker Ryan.

Senator Jack Reed spoke out about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act on the Senate floor earlier this week.

“Rhode Island in another aspect of this stands to lose over 7 billion dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years with repeal. Again, that is a staggering number for my state,” said Senator Reed.

The Senator says that loss of money would have a catastrophic effect for the state.

“That would be devastating for the state because they would have to step up as best they could and frankly they don’t have the kind of resources to replace that loss,” said Senator Reed.

Massachusetts lawmakers also taking a stand, Senators Warren and Markey are planning a rally in boston this weekend to fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act.

PROJO: R.I. lawmakers call for congressional investigation into cyber campaign

PROJO: R.I. lawmakers call for congressional investigation into cyber campaign

By Donita Naylor

Updated at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7, to include Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s statement

Three of Rhode Island’s four congressmen have called for a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference with the U.S. election of 2016.

“Our elections should be decided by American citizens, not foreign hackers, heads of state, or their propagandists,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Friday in reaction to a U.S. intelligence report saying Russia had “actively manipulated” the election.

Reed, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he agreed with Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who called the cyber campaign “an attack on all Americans because it undermines our democracy.”

Reed said from Washington that the hard evidence and “broad consensus from U.S. intelligence officials” should compel the United States “to take corrective action” against Russia.

“I realize this may be an uncomfortable situation for President-elect Trump, but the American people and the strength of our democracy should come first,” Reed said.

U.S. Rep. James Langevin, the R.I. Democrat who serves on the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees in the House and is cofounder and cochairman of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, noted that the Russians did not hack into systems for casting or counting votes but said he agrees that election systems should be declared critical infrastructure. “We must also act as a nation to build our resilience against future information warfare attacks,” Langevin said from Warwick.

Because Putin’s goals favored Trump, Langevin said, “it is essential that Mr. Trump act immediately to denounce this act of Russian interference and pledge to continue and enhance sanctions on Russia in response.”

From Pawtucket, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline called Russia’s actions “truly disturbing, and they cannot go unanswered.”
Saying Trump and some Republicans “have attempted to excuse Russia’s egregious behavior when it advances their own political goals,” Cicilline called the Russian leader “a brutal dictator” and said Republicans should “stop playing politics and work to hold Russia accountable.”

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse issued a statement on Saturday.

“Our intelligence community has spoken in no uncertain terms: Vladimir Putin led Russia in a far-reaching influence campaign designed to undermine the American people’s faith
in the democratic process and to elect Donald Trump. Now it is up to President-elect Trump to acknowledge the truth and resolve that such attacks never again succeed,” Whitehouse said

IOT Journal: OTA Calls IoT Cyberattacks ‘Shot Across the Bow’

IOT Journal: OTA Calls IoT Cyberattacks ‘Shot Across the Bow’

By IOT Journal

Press Release:

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) released its updated IoT Trust Framework at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Serving as a product development and risk assessment guide for developers, purchasers and retailers of Internet of things (IoT) devices, the Framework is the foundation for future IoT certification programs. OTA’s goal is to highlight devices and companies that demonstrate a commitment to device lifecycle security and embrace responsible privacy practices. Such notifications and disclosures will aid consumers to make informed IoT device purchasing decisions.

Echoing written testimony he recently provided to the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, OTA Executive Director and President Craig Spiezle said; “Recent IoT attacks like those which compromised hundreds of thousands of connected devices to take websites like Amazon, Twitter and Netflix offline were just a ‘shot across the bow.’ The next incident could create significant safety issues. While most IoT devices are safe and secure, many still lack security safeguards and privacy controls placing users and the Internet at large are at risk.”

OTA recognizes that while there is no perfect security, companies that apply the Framework principles should be shielded from regulatory oversight and class action suits, and potentially realize lower insurance premiums. The updated Framework reflects input from hundreds of leading security and privacy industry leaders including ADT, Microsoft, SiteLock, Symantec, TRUSTe, Verisign and others. This newest Framework builds on the first version released in March 2016, and incorporates a broad range of public and private efforts to secure IoT devices.

“I have long supported multi-stakeholder processes to address the significant cybersecurity challenges facing our nation,” said Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. “Recent attacks leveraging IoT devices have only highlighted the need for the work of organizations like OTA. It is essential that companies manage the cybersecurity risk of their IoT devices, applications, and services, and the IoT Framework provides clear principles that developers can use to mitigate risk and protect their customers.”

OTA researchers integrated IoT security and privacy recommendations from U.S. government agencies including the Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In addition OTA incorporated several key recommendations advocated by organizations including the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG), Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Consumer Federation of America (CFA), Consumer Technology Association (CTA), I am The Cavalry, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Internet Society and National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

The IoT Trust Framework includes 37 principles, segmented into four key categories:

• Security (1-9)—Applicable to any device and their applications and backend cloud services. These include embracing a rigorous software development security process, adhering to security principles for data stored and transmitted by the device, supply chain management, penetration testing and vulnerability reporting programs. Further principles outline the requirement for lifecycle security patching.

• User Access & Credentials (10-14)—Requiring encryption of all passwords and usernames, shipping devices with unique passwords, implementing generally accepted password reset processes and integrating mechanisms to help prevent “brute” force login attempts.

• Privacy, Disclosures & Transparency (15-30)—Requirements consistent with generally accepted privacy principles including prominent disclosures on packaging, point of sale and/or posted online. Provide the capability to reset devices to factory settings and be in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements, including but not limited to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Require disclosures about the impact to product features or functionality if connectivity is disabled.

• Notifications & Related Best Practices (31-37)—Key to maintaining device security is having mechanisms and processes to promptly notify a user of threats and action(s) required. Principles include requiring email authentication for security notifications and that messages must be written clearly for users of all ages and reading levels. In addition, tamper proof packaging and accessibility requirements are highlighted.