RIFuture: RI delegation is concerned about Rex Tillerson

RIFuture: RI delegation is concerned about Rex Tillerson

By Bob Plain on December 13, 2016

It’s fair to say Rhode Island’s congressional delegation is concerned with President-elect Donald Trump tapping ExxonMobile chexecutive Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state.

Senator Jack Reed said he has “serious concerns.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said he has “deep concerns.” Congressman Langevin said he has “significant concerns” and Congressman David Cicilline said, “The American people have a right to be deeply concerned.”

The four Democrats’ concern stems from either Tillerson’s ties to Russia and/or his ties to corporate America. Trump announced this morning he will put Tillerson up for nomination. Because Tillerson has ties to Russia and the CIA suspects Russia meddled with the election in an effort to benefit Trump, Tillerson could face a difficult Senate confirmation process.

Below are the full statements from each member of the delegation.

Senator Jack Reed:

“I have serious concerns about Mr. Tillerson’s nomination, and it serves as a reminder of the need to quickly and thoroughly investigate Russia’s campaign to subvert our election and our country’s interests.

“Our nation’s top diplomat should be someone who stands up for America’s best interests, but Mr. Tillerson’s profession has been putting Exxon Mobil’s bottom line above all else. He even opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia after the country’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 because his multinational oil company stood to lose Russian contracts.

“It is troubling that the President-elect continues to fill his cabinet with people who will blur the lines between corporate interests and America’s national interests, and put profits ahead of people.

“Mr. Tillerson deserves a fair confirmation process and I am sure he’ll face some tough questions from both Democrats and Republicans. I look forward to learning more about his views, background, and plans to prevent his personal conflicts of interest from interfering with his role as Secretary of State.”

Congressman David Cicilline:

“Once again, Donald Trump is revealing that his campaign for the presidency was nothing more than a long con of the American people. Rather than ‘draining the swamp,’ he is stocking his Cabinet with the same Wall Street billionaires and wealthy special interests he condemned over the last two years.”

“What’s worse is that, just days after it was revealed that Russian intelligence operatives are apparently still in possession of stolen Republican campaign emails, President-elect Trump has selected a Secretary of State with deep ties to Vladimir Putin’s regime and zero foreign policy experience.”

“Rex Tillerson advanced Exxon business interests in Russia, he opposed President Obama’s sanctions after Russia invaded Crimea, and Putin personally awarded him one of Russia’s highest honors for foreigners – the Order of Friendship.

“We are in uncharted waters. The American people have a right to be deeply concerned about potential Russian influence over the decision-making of the incoming administration.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse:

“Donald Trump pledged to ‘drain the swamp’ of corporate insiders in Washington to ensure that our government serves the American people, not massive corporations like ExxonMobil. That’s why it’s disturbing to see operatives of the Koch brothers, Exxon, and other special interests fill the ranks of the transition team, and the biggest swamp alligators floated as nominees to run federal agencies. I also have deep concerns about this nominee’s ties with Russia at a time when our allies in Europe depend upon international economic sanctions to deter Russia’s further violations of international law.”

Congressman Jim Langevin:

“Another day, another alarming Cabinet pick from President-elect Trump. I have significant concerns about the selection of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Not only does he lack any policy or diplomacy experience, but he has extensive business interests in Russia and a friendly relationship with Putin, having been awarded an Order of Friendship in 2013. At the same time we are discussing Russian interference in our electoral process – interference in our very democracy – Mr. Trump puts forth a candidate with documented ties to Moscow. It is a disconcerting choice, to be sure, and I hope that my colleagues in the Senate fully explore his background and his vision for our nation’s foreign policy.”

PROJO: Reed, Langevin: CIA assessment points to need for cyber-scrutiny

PROJO: Reed, Langevin: CIA assessment points to need for cyber-scrutiny

By Jennifer Bogdan

U.S. Rep James Langevin on Saturday said he was “deeply disturbed” by the CIA’s assessment that Russia intervened in the election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

The CIA’s assessment, in part, relied on information that people with connections to the Russian government provided WikiLeaks with hacked emails. Langevin, D-R.I., is a longtime proponent of increased cybersecurity.
“It is imperative that our intelligence agencies continue to conduct a thorough review of Russian information-warfare activity to confirm the extent of the operation and the motives of those involved,” Langevin said.

“This incident continues to underscore the immediate need to improve our nation’s cybersecurity as it represents a new front in nation-state conflicts.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the committee will conduct an inquiry next year into Russia’s cyberthreats that could help shed light on Russia’s suspected interference in the election.
Reed, D-R.I., said he hopes the results of any review by the committee could be made public “without jeopardizing intelligence sources or methods.”

Last month, Reed was one of seven U.S. senators on the committee who sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to declassify and release more information about Russia’s involvement in the election.

“We shouldn’t allow any attack on our democratic system to go unchecked,” Reed said.

Warwick Beacon: RI to receive $6M for early education

Warwick Beacon: RI to receive $6M for early education

Posted

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, announced Wednesday that Rhode Island preschool programs will receive $6,043,131 from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services through the Preschool Development Grant Program. Rhode Island is one of 18 states awarded funds to expand access to preschool for children from low- to moderate-income families.  

In a press release the state Congressional delegation lauded the grant.

“Early childhood education programs benefit families, communities, and our economy.  We want every child to have a chance to start off strong and achieve their full potential.  I am proud to have helped deliver these funds.  Because we stood firm and staved off the elimination of funding for the Preschool Development Grant, more kids are going to get an opportunity to learn,” said Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who helped successfully provide $250 million to continue support for Preschool Development Grants in the fiscal year 2017 Appropriations bill.

“Every mom and dad wants their kid to have the chance to do well in school right from the start,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “These federal resources will help open the doors of quality early education centers to more of Rhode Island’s littlest learners.”

“Early education is the foundation upon which student success is built, especially for low-income and at-risk children,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “By increasing access to preschool and other early learning opportunities, that foundation is strengthened for hundreds more young people, giving them the skills, confidence, and support they need to perform in kindergarten and throughout their educational experience.”

“This funding is great news for Rhode Island’s families. Ensuring high-quality early education is one of the most effective ways we can help Rhode Island children do better in school,” said Congressman David Cicilline, who advocated for this funding. “All of Rhode Island’s children deserve access to preschool educations that set them up to succeed in school and compete for the high-paying jobs of the 21st Century. This report clearly demonstrates that our state is meeting its goals for improving access in high-needs communities, and this funding will help us continue to close the achievement gap and ensure all our children have the opportunities they deserve to build necessary skills and thrive academically.”

Over the past three years, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have invested $750 million nationwide to expand access to early education in 230 high-need communities. Rhode Island is one of six states that met or substantially exceeded enrollment targets. Between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, the state increased the number of classrooms served from 17 to 33, representing 594 students.

Dredging News Online US: CRMC celebrates Ninigret Pond salt marsh restoration project

Environmental Issues // December 6, 2016
The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) recently celebrated the impending start of work on the Ninigret Pond Salt Marsh Restoration and Enhancement project in Charlestown with project partners and town officials at a ceremony at the breachway.

“We’re all in this together, and thank goodness, because this is critical. We know that the sea levels are rising, all across the world, but in Rhode Island, it has a huge impact on us,” said Senator Jack Reed, (D-RI). “It has an impact on our way of life, our economy, on maintaining our homes. We have to take positive action, and this is positive action.”

Reed was chair of the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies at the time the funding was awarded for the project, and was instrumental in securing the funds for Rhode Island.

Starting the first week of December, crews will be dredging within the Charlestown Breachway, and will then reuse that material on the adjacent Ninigret salt marsh to increase its elevation to make it more resilient to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The goals of the project are to preserve the functions of the existing salt marsh making it more resilient to future sea level rise, to slow the entry of sediment into the pond and to improve navigation by creating a deeper breachway channel.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI), said the project was a great one, bringing together many state and local partners, as well as non-governmental agencies to protect one of the state’s many beautiful natural resources.

“What a gem we live in – look at this,” he said, gesturing to the marsh behind him. “But it’s also got a little hint of a warning in it. What we’re seeing now is sea level rise accelerating…and now the pace of sea level rise has gone ahead of the ability of our marshes to keep up naturally, so now we have to do it ourselves. And it’s great work, but we should take away from this a warning that the basic operating systems of our environment are starting to go haywire, and we have a short window of opportunity to try to resolve that.”

The CRMC has contracted with JF Brennan Company Inc., an environmental services and marine construction firm that specializes in waterway remediation and habitat restoration to dredge two sedimentation basins within the breachway channel.

Most of the material that is dredged will be discharged from pipes onto the marsh to the west of the channel. The discharged material will then be spread and graded to elevations that are appropriate for salt marsh plants. Some of the material dredged from the basins will be discharged along the shore, in the intertidal area to the east of the breachway. This will help to re-nourish the beach along the shoreline.

Congressman James Langevin lauded his fellow legislators for their continued steadfast work in Washington, as well as the CRMC and project partners for their hard work on the project. “This really is an excellent example of what a successful partnership is, when the federal, state and local governments work to preserve our natural resources,” he said. “You are having an impact for generations to come. I know that we cannot fight Mother Nature, but hopefully we can work with her to mitigate the effects of sea level rise and super storms. We can’t let up on the effort, and we’ll have to get smarter and more resilient.”

“Sea levels in Rhode Island have been rising at an increasing rate, particularly over the last 30 years. Observations in many of Rhode Island’s salt marshes – including the marshes in Ninigret Pond – confirm what our models are telling us: that salt marshes are beginning to drown in place, converting to mud flats or open water.

“Salt marshes perform many important functions, including acting as a natural buffer to storms and providing protection for communities along our shorelines. Within the Charlestown breachway in Ninigret Pond, sand has been accumulating as it is swept in by shoreline currents. As it enters the pond it covers eelgrass beds—an important habitat—and makes navigation difficult for the many boaters who enjoy the pond.”

“We know that in Rhode Island, our marshes are under considerable stress from accelerated sea level rise, so the goal is to enhance the marsh and improve its resilience to sea level rise,” said Caitlin Chaffee, CRMC coastal policy analyst. “We hope this project will serve as a win, win, win – one, to restore the important ecological habitats we have here. The second win is protecting our coastal communities – by restoring these habitats, we can really improve the resilience of this coastal barrier system, thereby protecting our coastal communities. The third win is the other community benefits this project represents – the dredging will improve navigation for people who recreate on the pond…and those [sedimentation] basins will trap sediment that would otherwise smother those eelgrass beds.”

The JF Brennan crew is currently mobilizing the dredges, barge, and other equipment near the RIDEM state boat ramp and campground to the east of the breachway. Boat ramp access will be temporarily blocked while a crane is used to move equipment into the channel. Visitors should use caution and heed signage to avoid the active construction areas and equipment. Dredging was scheduled to begin on 5 December. Once equipment is deployed, access to the boat ramp will remain open. Boaters should use caution when navigating the breachway channel while the dredging machinery is in operation.

Dredging will occur six days a week, 24 hours per day until the project is complete. Dredging is anticipated to be completed by the end of January. Work on the salt marsh will begin shortly after dredging begins, and will continue through January. The salt marsh work will be done using a lightweight, amphibious excavator, and is anticipated to be completed no later than mid-April. Planting of the marsh will occur in the mid to late spring. Ecological monitoring of the site is ongoing and will continue after the project is completed.

Immediately after the dredged material is spread and graded, the marsh will look much like a mud flat—a bare area of exposed sediment. Over time, salt marsh grasses will begin to recolonize the covered areas.

Save The Bay will be working with CRMC to plant a portion of the restored area to ‘jump start’ the natural recolonization process. Many of the plants to be planted will come from seeds collected here in Rhode Island with the help of the New England Wildflower Society. Over the next few years, it is anticipated that healthy salt marsh grasses will again cover the restored marsh. The breachway channel will be deepened significantly to create basins where sediment can accumulate over time.

Warwick Beacon: Langevin, Ratcliffe cybersecurity legislation passes House

Warwick Beacon: Langevin, Ratcliffe cybersecurity legislation passes House

Posted Tuesday, December 6, 2016 12:52 pm
Legislation introduced by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) has passed the U.S. House to strengthen collaborative cybersecurity research and development efforts between the United States and Israel. The two bills were introduced in July, after the lawmakers returned from a congressional delegation trip to Israel that focused on key cybersecurity issues facing both countries.

The United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 5843) and the United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act of 2016 (H.R. 5877) both passed unanimously out of the House and now await action in the Senate.

“My trip to Israel with Congressman Ratcliffe was an illuminating experience and reinforced my belief that our countries have much to learn from one another when it comes to cybersecurity,” said Langevin, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.

“This belief has only been reinforced in the intervening months as we saw cyber-attacks that targeted the very foundation of our nation, our electoral system. Nations share many cybersecurity problems with the private sector, but they do have distinct national security challenges in cyberspace that they must address. Our legislation will further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and drive innovative, collaborative thinking about homeland security priorities. I am so pleased that my colleagues in the House recognize that cybersecurity is the security challenge of our time, and I urge the Senate to act without delay.”

The United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act will create a cybersecurity grant program for joint research and development ventures between Israeli and American entities. The Secretary of Homeland Security will determine research requirements with help from an advisory board made up of members from successful U.S.-Israeli partnerships, such as the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation and the United States-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation.

The United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act expands a successful binational research and development program at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency to include cybersecurity technologies. This collaboration between DHS and the Israeli Ministry of Public Security helps new products through the “valley of death” between basic and early-phase applied research and successful commercialization, and will help both countries develop solutions to the unique security problems found in the cyber domain.

PROJO: R.I. defense industry a big winner in spending bill

The $619-billion National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the U.S. House and expected to pass in the Senate this week, contains funds for submarine construction and a new National Guard headquarters in East Greenwich.

By Katherine Gregg
Journal Political Writer

PROVIDENCE – With $5 billion included for the construction of two Virginia-class attack submarines, another $1.9 billion for ballistic-missile submarines and $20 million for construction of a new National Guard headquarters in East Greenwich, the Rhode Island defense industry stands to benefit big-time from a spending bill headed for final votes in Washington, D.C., this week.

The $619-billion National Defense Authorization Act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday by a vote of 375 to 34. It will be taken up by the full U.S. Senate this week and is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
On the national level, the 2017 defense-spending bill “supports ongoing operations overseas and gives troops a 2.1-percent pay raise, the biggest increase since 2010,” according to an aide to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who, as the top Democrat (or “ranking member”) of the Senate Armed Services Committee, helped write and negotiate the package.

It also earmarks millions for two submarine programs at General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyards in North Kingstown and in Groton, Connecticut.

In a telephone interview on Saturday about the stakes, Reed said: “It is important for Rhode Island in multiple ways.

“First, it fully funds the two-ship-a-year construction of the Virginia-class submarine, which is literally thousands of jobs at Quonset Point and at Groton…. Second, it continues to fund the development of the next ballistic submarine, the Ohio class replacement, which also is on track to bring thousands of additional jobs to Quonset Point.”

Attack submarines are designed to hunt and sink surface ships and other submarines, as well as carry out surveillance and special-operations missions. Ballistic-missile submarines are designed to hide deep in the sea, each with more than a dozen nuclear missiles to deter a nuclear strike by enemies who wouldn’t be able to prevent a devastating counterstrike from the submarines.

“These two programs alone are absolutely critical … to national security and jobs in Rhode Island,” Reed said.

“We also have increased the authorization for applied research at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center down in Newport,” he said. “We want to maintain our technological advantage on any adversary, particularly under these new domains, like cyber and under-sea … There’s a lot of emphasis on remote or autonomous vehicles, and that research can be done now with more resources.”
Added U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., after the bill cleared the House: “If there is one issue on which bipartisanship prevails, it is national security, and I am proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to support our military, care for our veterans, invest in innovation and protect American interests at home and abroad.”

Earlier Saturday, Reed joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and others, in Groton for the christening of the new PCU Colorado Virginia-class submarine, the fifth and newest addition to the Block III Virginia-class submarines. The construction, which began in March 2012, was completed by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.

Reed’s office provide this breakdown of some of the direct impacts on Rhode Island’s defense industry, which, according to the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA), employs about 33,000 Rhode Islanders:

R.I. construction

$20 million for the construction of a new headquarters facility for the Rhode Island Army and Air National Guard in East Greenwich.

The $20 million would cover two-thirds of the cost of the state-federal construction project, which will build the new 80,000-square-foot Readiness Center to support training, administrative and logistical requirements for the Rhode Island Army and Air National Guard. According to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget, a construction contract should be awarded in January.

The stated reason for the project: the current Command Readiness Center lacks adequate administrative space, classrooms, locked storage space, and an assembly hall for unit formations – all of which hinder the Command’s ability to meet readiness, retention and training objectives.
Shipbuilding and naval innovation

$5 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, including an additional $85 million above the president’s budget request in advance procurement. The bill supports the 10-boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed in April 2014.

$1.9 billion to fully support the Ohio-class replacement program.

$271.7 million for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program. The ships are built in Maine, but a lot of the “smart technology” that goes into them is worked on in Rhode Island.

$126.3 million to accelerate undersea warfare applied research.

$10 million for the procurement of additional sensor systems that detect stealth submarines, a priority for the Navy.

Westerly Sun: Guest commentary: Collaboration key to strengthening cybersecurity

Westerly Sun: Guest commentary: Collaboration key to strengthening cybersecurity

As co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and a leader in the effort to strengthen our nation’s cyber defenses, I am pleased the House of Representatives recently passed two bills I introduced with my colleague, Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), to strengthen collaborative cybersecurity research and development efforts between the United States and Israel.

We introduced these bills in July, upon our return from a congressional delegation trip to Israel that focused on key cybersecurity issues facing both countries.

The United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 5843) and the United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act of 2016 (H.R. 5877) both passed unanimously out of the House and now await action in the Senate.

From this section:
Guest commentary: First responders have to be able to find you to provide help
My trip to Israel with Congressman Ratcliffe was an illuminating experience and reinforced my belief that our countries have much to learn from one another when it comes to cybersecurity. This belief has only been reinforced in the intervening months as we saw cyber-attacks that targeted the very foundation of our nation, our electoral system.

Nations share many cybersecurity problems with the private sector, but they do have distinct national security challenges in cyberspace that they must address. Our legislation will further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and drive innovative, collaborative thinking about homeland security priorities. I am so pleased that my colleagues in the House recognize that cybersecurity is the security challenge of our time, and I urge the Senate to act without delay.

The United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act will create a cybersecurity grant program for joint research and development ventures between Israeli and American entities. The Secretary of Homeland Security will determine research requirements with help from an advisory board made up of members from successful U.S.-Israeli partnerships, such as the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation and the United States-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation.

The United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act expands a successful binational research and development program at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency to include cybersecurity technologies. This collaboration between DHS and the Israeli Ministry of Public Security helps new products through the “valley of death” between basic and early-phase applied research and successful commercialization, and will help both countries develop solutions to the unique security problems found in the cyber domain.

Times of Israel: US, Israel set to boost teamwork on cybersecurity

Times of Israel: US, Israel set to boost teamwork on cybersecurity

House of Representatives unanimously passes 2 bills to strengthen collaboration against attacks on computer systems
By Shoshanna Solomon November 30, 2016, 4:36 pm

Israel and the United States are poised to collaborate more closely on cybersecurity research and development as lawmakers passed two bills that aim to strengthen the collaboration between the nations.

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation introduced by Reps. John Ratcliffe of Texas and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island.
The bills, the United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act of 2016 and the United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2016, now await action in the Senate.

The two bills were introduced in July, after the lawmakers returned from a congressional delegation trip to Israel that focused on key cybersecurity issues facing both countries.

“Israel is a vital strategic partner, and I’m pleased to be working closely with Rep. Langevin to preserve and strengthen this important bond through joint cybersecurity efforts. Cybersecurity is national security, and enhancing joint research and development efforts between the United States and Israel will improve our countries’ ability to deter malicious cyber actors,” said Ratcliffe, who chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies.

Greater threats require more collaboration
Collaboration between nations is believed by industry experts to be one of the best ways to prevent the growing threat of cyber-attacks, and there is a critical need for countries across the world to share research and development and innovations.

Increasing mobile and web usage and social media are among the key factors contributing to the “explosive increase” in cyber threats, MarketsandMarkets, a Dallas, Texas-based market research firm said in a report. The global cybersecurity market will be worth more than $170 billion by 2020, according to an estimate by MarketsandMarkets, with companies globally focusing on security solutions but also services.

“I’m glad the House passed these bills to amplify the work already being done to tackle the growing cyber threats we both face, and I’m hopeful this legislation will serve as a solid foundation for a sustained cybersecurity partnership as we look to address new and evolving cyber issues moving forward,” Ratcliff said.

“My trip to Israel with Congressman Ratcliffe was an illuminating experience, and reinforced my belief that our countries have much to learn from one another when it comes to cybersecurity,” said Langevin, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.

“This belief has only been reinforced in the intervening months as we saw cyber-attacks that targeted the very foundation of our nation, our electoral system,” he said. “Nations share many cybersecurity problems with the private sector, but they do have distinct national security challenges in cyberspace that they must address. Our legislation will further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and drive innovative, collaborative thinking about homeland security priorities. I am so pleased that my colleagues in the House recognize that cybersecurity is the security challenge of our time, and I urge the Senate to act without delay.”

The United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act expands a binational research and development program at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency to include cybersecurity technologies. This collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and the Israeli Ministry of Public Security helps new products pass through the so-called “valley of death” — the period between basic and early-phase applied research through to successful commercialization. It will help both countries develop solutions to the unique security problems found in the cyber domain, according to a statement issued by Ratcliffe.
The United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act will create a cybersecurity grant program for joint research and development ventures between Israeli and US entities. The Secretary of Homeland Security will determine research requirements with help from an advisory board made up of members from US-Israeli partnerships, such as the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation and the United States-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation.

Providence Journal: US House approves sweeping biomedical measure

Providence Journal: US House approves sweeping biomedical measure

The compromise, which envisions spending $6.3 billion over the next decade, was condemned by consumer groups and some Democrats as a present to drug makers that promised only paltry spending increases for underfunded federal programs.

By Alan FramThe Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House easily approved a sweeping biomedical bill Wednesday that would help drug and medical device companies win swifter government approval of their products, boost disease research and drug-abuse spending and revamp federal mental health programs.

The compromise, which envisions spending $6.3 billion over the next decade, was condemned by consumer groups and some Democrats as a present to drug makers that promised only paltry spending increases for underfunded federal programs.

But their objections were overwhelmed by an alliance among Republicans, many Democrats and the White House for a 996-page measure that bore wins for both parties. The Senate’s expected final approval next week would mark an uncommon episode of cooperation between the GOP-run 114th Congress — which plans to adjourn next week — and President Barack Obama in their dwindling days in office.

The vote was 392-26.

Rhode Island Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, both Democrats, voted to approve the measure.

“The 21st Century Cures Act makes crucial investments in innovation and medical research, including the Cancer Moonshot and BRAIN Initiatives, and it supports important health care policies such as increasing access to mental health services and combating opioid addiction,” Langevin said.

“I am especially pleased that the bill includes language from legislation I introduced with Congressman Gregg Harper to improve medical rehabilitation research and coordination at the National Institutes of Health. After becoming paralyzed at the age of 16, I required intensive rehabilitation in order to navigate my new lifestyle, an experience that is shared by so many Americans with disabilities, traumatic injuries, and chronic conditions.”

But he added: “… the 21st Century Cures Act is by no means a perfect bill. It strips away funding from the Public Health Prevention Fund, undermining our efforts to fight the very diseases we are attempting to cure. And although this legislation streamlines the FDA drug and device approval process, we must ensure that these reforms do not compromise patient safety.

“Finally, this bill does nothing to reign in the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, an issue that has seriously impacted Rhode Island families. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that these issues receive the attention they deserve and are properly addressed going forward.”

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and an author of the legislation, said: “We are on the cusp of something special, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how we treat disease,” said

Not everyone agreed.

Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn., said that while the bill contained “noble goals that I share,” its relaxation of some standards for federal drug approvals was dangerous and “neglects the very people clinical trials are meant to help, that is the patients.”

No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin, of Illinois, said he was “totally underwhelmed” by the bill’s extra money, and said its cuts in a disease prevention fund created under Obama’s health care law to finance new medical research displayed “a warped sense of justice.”

Democratic hopes — and leverage — for winning more money and consumer protections faded with Republican Donald Trump’s presidential election triumph. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flatly said his chamber will send the measure to Obama, and Durbin said he expected Senate passage.

In a written statement, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the bill “is not perfect” but contains “advances in health that far outweigh these concerns.” He said the Senate should approve it quickly.

The bill includes an additional $4.8 billion over the next 10 years for the National Institutes of Health. The medical research agency spends around $32 billion annually, and supporters complain that spending cuts imposed by Congress and rising research costs mean its budget has eroded in value since the early 2000s.

“A couple billion dollars doesn’t go very far in cancer research” over 10 years, said Lisa Plymate, a director of the liberal-leaning National Physicians Alliance.

Much of the NIH money would be for Obama’s precision medicine initiative, aimed at tailoring drugs for people’s genes and lifestyles, and research on cancer, a focus of Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau died of the disease in 2015.

The Food and Drug Administration would get $500 million to streamline approval processes for drugs and medical devices.

States would get $1 billion over the next two years for preventing and treating abuse of addictive drugs like opioids, a problem that is surging in GOP and Democratic represented communities around the country.

Providence Journal: R.I. to receive $6 million in federal money for preschool programs

Providence Journal: R.I. to receive $6 million in federal money for preschool programs

By Staff and Wire Reporters

Rhode Island preschool programs will receive $6 million from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services through the Preschool Development Grant Program.
Rhode Island is one of 18 states awarded funds to expand access to preschool for children from low-to moderate-income families.

The announcement was made in a joint news release from U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline.

Four New England states are among 18 states getting more than $247 million in federal grants to continue expanding access to high-quality preschool for children from low- to moderate-income families.

The share of the funds announced Wednesday also included $15 million for Massachusetts, $11.7 million for Connecticut and $7.3 million for Vermont.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed says Rhode Island’s congressional delegation stood firm and staved off the elimination of funding for the preschool development grants.

Rhode Island is one of six states and the only one in New England that federal education officials say met or exceeded enrollment targets.