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Updated: 52 min 32 sec ago

More than 70 members of Congress reject pay during shutdown

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 9:00pm

As federal employees brace themselves for their first missed paychecks on Friday, some members of Congress have decided to join them in a show of solidarity and refuse their paychecks.

So far, 71 members of Congress say they will turn down their paychecks during the partial government shutdown, according to social media posts and statements reviewed by CNN. That comprises 13 senators and 58 representatives, with members from both parties making up a similar proportion of those going without pay. Fourteen representatives passing on pay are newly elected and were sworn in this year.
While most have asked House Chief Administrative Officer Phil Kiko to withhold their pay, others say they plan to donate it to particular charities or causes.
Among them is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who tweeted on New Year's Day -- the day after she announced she would explore a 2020 presidential run -- that she would be donating her paycheck to HIAS, a nonprofit that helps refugees.    
    Several members of Congress have also pushed legislation that would penalize members for allowing a shutdown to occur. Rep. Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, introduced a bill in 2017 that would automatically dock members' pay during government shutdowns, and Rep. Ralph Norman, a South Carolina Republican, introduced a constitutional amendment the day before the government shut down that would ban them from being paid.
    Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, one of seven House Republicans who voted to reopen the federal government, urged all members to join him in declining his paycheck.
    "Everybody ought to follow the lead that several of us have already set: Don't get paid," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday. "If you're in Congress, don't just delay your pay -- forfeit it, write a check back to the US Treasury. Then you'll feel the pain of these federal workers."
    [Among] the members of Congress who won't receive their paychecks during the shutdown:
    • Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon) (donating to an Oregon charity)
    Read the full article at CNN.com.

    Rep Schrader: Congress should not get paid during government shutdown

    Tue, 01/08/2019 - 9:00pm


    Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader talks one-on-one with KATU's Brian Wood about what it will take to end the government shutdown, and how quickly he thinks it would end if members of Congress didn't get their paychecks during the shutdown.

    Watch the full interview above.

    Watch at KATU.com

    Airport workers ‘held hostage’ in government shutdown as Oregon politicians call for action

    Mon, 01/07/2019 - 9:00pm

    More than 700 air traffic controllers and security officers continue to show up to work at airports across Oregon with no assurance of their next paycheck as the federal government shutdown hit the 18-day mark on Tuesday.

    Some workers, however, are growing increasingly worried.

    Transportation Security Administration staffers at Portland International Airport are circulating among colleagues information about how to file for unemployment. Union officials are directing the 380 TSA workers at the airport to local food pantries or grief counseling services as needed.

    But if the federal government can’t pass a funding bill this week, the questions and concerns will only compound.

    The timing, union leaders said Tuesday, couldn’t be worse, as some workers expect to miss their first paycheck as soon as Friday if politicians don’t act.

    “People joke around about walking out,” said Joe Lowry, political coordinator for the TSA’s union in Portland, “but we can’t do that.” The TSA employees are classified as “essential” personnel and are blocked from striking and must show up to work despite the shutdown.

    The Port of Portland, which owns and operates the airport, said the facility continues to work smoothly. According to media reports, some other airports have seen delays as workers call in sick.

    Greg Biel, president of the American Federation of Government Employee’s TSA branch in Portland, said nerves are tightening.

    “The fear is as this continues,” Biel said at a news conference in Portland, “they may have to go seek other employment.” He said that is also the situation for 20 managers at PDX who aren’t part of the union and are at home on unpaid leave.

    U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader, both Democrats, met with airport workers before speaking to reporters Tuesday. They hoped to draw attention to the plight of hundreds of airport workers in Oregon, who are just a fraction of the 10,000 federal employees who work in forestry, agriculture and other sectors across Oregon, Schrader said.

    The news conference comes as President Trump is scheduled to address the nation Tuesday night from the Oval Office for the first time. He is expected to argue that his more than $5 billion border wall is critical to the nation’s security.

    Trump said before the Dec. 22 shutdown that he was happy to take the blame for the federal government over the wall debate. Since then, Trump has blamed Democrats for the shutdown and hinted he may consider declaring a national emergency and exerting special executive powers to pay for the wall.

    Bonamici, who sits on a congressional labor committee, described the shutdown as “unnecessary” and said it is dangerous to put at risk federal employees who help planes take off and land safely and help passengers move through terminals across the country.

    “This whole shutdown is completely unacceptable,” she said, “but it’s in the name of safety at the southern border, losing sight of what our air traffic controllers and TSA do.”

    Schrader called on the Trump administration and Senate Republicans to approve the spending bills approved by the now Democratically controlled House of Representatives. The bills separate the wall from the debate and ensure federal agencies will be funded.

    “There’s no reason these budgets should be held hostage,” he said. “These poor men and women doing our work for us, making the skies safe, aren’t getting paid. The idea you just pay them later? That doesn’t work guy.

    “If you’re an average American you need your paycheck now; you can’t wait a month or two or three and get paid and expect to get by.”

    TSA workers aren’t alone.

    Eddie DeLisle, the Pacific Northwest regional vice president of the air traffic controllers union, said his workforce totals about 125 in Oregon. The majority, 80, help passenger planes and cargo shipments take off and land safely at PDX.

    DeLisle said the job is “inherently stressful,” and now employees have the added burden of wondering if a paycheck will land in coming days.

    Members keep asking when the shutdown will end and what happens if they aren’t paid.

    “It’s unfortunate to have no answers to either question,” he said.

    DeLisle said his workers’ situations aren’t quite as grim TSA workers, whose representatives told stories of selling plasma to make ends meet. But DeLisle said there’s massive uncertainty.

    “I don’t know too many people who live better than paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

    Past government shutdowns haven’t gotten to this nerve-wracking point, DeLisle said. He said that it was “just by sheer luck” that the shutdown has happened to stretch between pay periods. He said this isn’t about the border wall at this point.

    “People just want to end the government shutdown,” he said.

    Trang Kim and Rex Miekle, two TSA officers who have been with the agency in Portland since it began in 2002, watched the news conference from the side and said they haven’t experienced anything quite like this.

    To come on the heels of the holidays, when workers bought gifts for family and friends, compounds the worry. TSA workers also lost out on an expected 1.9 percent pay increase last month, Kim said.

    She keeps checking on workers to keep morale up.

    Miekle showed up at the airport on his day off to show support for his colleagues.

    “If the ship sinks,” he said, “we’re all going down together.”

    Read the article on Oregonlive.com.

    Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici calls for immediate end to government shutdown

    Mon, 01/07/2019 - 9:00pm

    Two Democratic members of Congress from Oregon met with TSA agents and air-traffic controllers at Portland International Airport on Tuesday before flying back to Washington, D.C.

    U.S. representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader met with the federal workers who are considered "essential," which means they're working without pay, like others across the country.

    "My hats off to these men and women willing to come to work with no light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the President. It should be a bipartisan exercise to fund the government," Schrader said.

    The local leader of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA workers, said so far there is no "sickout," or workers calling in sick over the shutdown.

    "We have very dedicated people who are coming here, still coming to work," AFGE president Greg Biel said. "The fear is if this continues they may have to go seek unemployment."

    Bonamici said they heard from one TSA agent who is selling plasma to make ends meet, and another whose spouse is in the U.S. Coast Guard and is also not getting paid right now.

    Both stressed that the shutdown is unacceptable, and unnecessary for the border-security debate to continue.

    "The House has already passed the bills to fund the government, to keep the government open," Bonamici said. "I hope they take those up in the Senate. We need to end this immediately, families are being affected."

    Read the article on KGW.com.

    Lawmakers Meet With TSA, Air Traffic Controllers At PDX Amid Shutdown

    Mon, 01/07/2019 - 9:00pm
    Air traffic controllers and TSA agents at Portland International Airport told lawmakers they’re selling plasma and considering looking for work in the private sector as a result of the ongoing government shutdown.

    About 60 air traffic controllers and up to 400 TSA agents at PDX have been working without pay since the government shutdown first began over two weeks ago. The shutdown occurred because of a disagreement between the president and congressional Democrats over funding for a border wall.

    Oregon Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici met with employees at PDX Tuesday to hear how they’re being affected by the shutdown ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned primetime address on the southern border, where he made another plea for border wall funding.

    “We heard this morning about a gentleman here who works for TSA and his wife going out to sell plasma because they need the resources to meet their expenses,” Bonamici said Tuesday.

    The lawmakers are heading back to Washington, D.C., where they say they intend to share what they heard from PDX employees. They say they’ll use the information to make a plea to their counterparts in the Senate to pass a bill that doesn’t include funding for a border wall but would reopen the government. Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden voted in favor of one of those Democratic bills.

    “If [the president] wants to have a debate about the wall, we can do that,” Bonamici said. “But we should absolutely not shut down the government to do it and take paychecks away from people who are working hard to keep our country safe.” 

    The lawmakers said paying TSA agents and air traffic controllers at PDX is a matter of safety. Schrader said he spoke with a new employee who was scheduled to start work at PDX but is now “caught in between” as a result of the shutdown and can’t work. 

    “He just got a new home up here, he now can’t get paid,” Schrader said. “It’s a horrible situation.”

    TSA employees at PDX have not followed suit with employees at some of the nation’s largest airports, where people have called in sick in mass numbers because of the shutdown.

    Greg Biel with the American Federation of Government Employees said more employees will be forced to seek employment elsewhere if the shutdown continues. He said the effect will be short-staffing and more stress for employees who continue to work. 

    “It’s just a snowball effect,” Biel said. “And we just cannot continue with this, it has to end very soon.”

    Read the article at OPB.

    Some freshmen say no paycheck during shutdown, but most lawmakers get paid

    Sun, 01/06/2019 - 9:00pm

    For a few of the 93 freshman lawmakers sworn in last week, one of their first official acts in Congress was indefinitely delaying their paycheck.

    In keeping with previous government shutdowns, dozens of lawmakers are voluntarily refusing or donating their pay as long as any part of the federal bureaucracy remains shuttered — and new members are not being shy about joining in.

    For many, it is a gesture of solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors who will be going without their own paychecks until the partial shutdown is resolved. For others, it is a matter of good government — why should they get paid if they are failing to keep the government’s doors open?

    According to press statements and social media postings reviewed by The Washington Post, at least 48 members in the House and Senate — split about equally between both parties — have announced they plan to refuse or donate their pay for the duration of the shutdown. Thirteen of those are House freshmen serving for the first time in Congress, which currently stands at 434 members in the House and 99 in the Senate, with two vacancies.

    “While it is typically a day of celebration for my new colleagues and me, at least 800,000 federal employees and federal contractors are still in financial distress due to the current government shutdown,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who represents a D.C.-area district full of those employees, wrote in a letter to House Chief Administrative Officer Philip G. Kiko.

    Another freshman, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), said it was not “appropriate” for lawmakers to collect pay “while hard-working border security agents and other civil servants are furloughed.” (Border agents are essential personnel who are continuing to work, but they will not be paid until the shutdown ends.)

    A spokesman for Kiko declined to share a comprehensive list of members who have made that request. But so far, the number of lawmakers opting to refuse their paychecks appears to be behind the pace set in the last extended shutdown, the 16-day partial shuttering in October 2013.

    A Post tally counted as many as 248 members who made public statements declining their pay — $174,000 annually, then and now, for members of the House and Senate — during that standoff.

    There is one difference from previous shutdowns: Lawmakers funded the congressional budget in the fall, along with the military and a few other departments, so Capitol Hill staff have not been furloughed.

    Representatives for the top House leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — did not respond to requests for comment Monday on whether those lawmakers planned to accept their pay. Pelosi makes $223,500 annually as speaker, while the Senate leaders get $193,400 apiece.

    Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two congressional leadership aides said separately that the top leaders did not want to turn member pay into a political flash point.

    Roll Call analysis of member wealth in the last Congress pegged the median net worth of a lawmaker at $511,000 — about five times the net worth of the average American household. Lawmakers, in other words, are typically much better positioned to withstand an income disruption than their average constituent.

    Some members, one aide said, have personal financial obligations such as maintaining family homes back in their districts, paying for child care and caring for elderly relatives, and leaders did not want to be seen as pressuring them into turning down their pay. Another aide said they simply trusted members to “do what they want to do” knowing their own political dynamics.

    At least one senator said publicly that he sees no reason not to cash his checks: Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in an interview last month with the Forum News Service — when he was a member of the House — that the no-pay pledges were “gimmicky” and that he was working hard for his money.

    “The government isn’t shut down, only about 25 percent of it,” he said in remarks published in the Grand Forks Herald. “Some federal employees are getting paid time off.”

    His predecessor, former senator Heidi Heitkamp (D), said she would donate the final days of her Senate pay, and fellow Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said the same.

    While lawmakers can request that their pay be withheld, it is not quite so simple as a matter of law. Congressional administrators interpret the 27th Amendment to the Constitution as prohibiting any changes to a member’s compensation until the next Congress. Instead, they are holding lawmakers’ pay in escrow, paying it out after the shutdown ends and leaving the members themselves to decide how to use the proceeds.

    Many are simply donating their paychecks outright. Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), for instance, is donating her pay to the Alzheimer’s Association.

    In her letter to Kiko, she noted her past service as a Defense Department official who had to oversee furloughs during the 2013 shutdown. “I have seen up close the damage that a government shutdown has on the mission of our federal departments and the morale of our federal personnel.”

    Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) is splitting her pay between three food banks in her district, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he will donate his pay to a charity providing housing for homeless veterans. (Both are among the wealthiest members of Congress.)

    Meanwhile, at least two bills and a proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate that members lose their paychecks during future shutdowns have already been filed.

    Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) last week reintroduced his “Hold Congress Accountable Act,” a measure he first introduced during the 2013 shutdown, while Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) introduced the “No Work, No Pay Act.” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) would go further and write such a measure into the Constitution itself.

    Schrader, in a statement announcing his bill, said of the current shutdown, “I wouldn’t expect a student government to operate this way, let alone the government of the most powerful nation in the world.”

    Read the article in Washington Post.

    Wyden, Blumenauer reintroduce vote-by-mail bill

    Wed, 01/02/2019 - 9:00pm
    Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer on Thursday reintroduced their bill to expand Oregon-style vote-by-mail nationwide and knock down the mounting obstacles that voters across the country are facing, just to cast their ballots.

    The House of Representatives included a portion of the Wyden-Blumenauer bill in House Resolution 1, a package of pro-democratic reforms released Thursday.

    “The House is doing the right thing by recognizing the value of vote-by-mail and the Senate should follow its lead. Last November, once again, voters across the nation faced unacceptable barriers just to have their ballots counted,” Wyden said. “This administration and special interests want to make voting harder so they can advance an anti-democratic agenda that rewards the powerful and hurts regular Americans. Our bill sweeps away artificial roadblocks to voting and makes it easier for everyone to have their voice heard in Washington, D.C.”

    “Our first priority should be to ensure our democracy is available to everyone, which is why this is my first bill of the new Congress. Our legislation removes barriers to voting and promotes Oregon’s highly successful automatic voter registration and vote-by-mail systems,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Access to the ballot has been under threat across America for too long. I am proud that the success of the Oregon model is now being recognized federally by paving the way for all Americans to vote by mail.”

    Read the bill text here

    The Senate bill is co-sponsored by: Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., D-N.M., Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

    The House bill is co-sponsored Representatives David Cicilline (RI), Peter DeFazio (OR), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Kurt Schrader (OR), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Terri Sewell (AL), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Theodore Deutch (FL), Jim Cooper (TN), Adam Smith (WA), Julia Brownley (CA), Salud Carbajal (CA) and Eric Swalwell (CA).

    The Vote-By-Mail Act requires every state to provide registered voters the opportunity to vote by mail. All registered voters will receive ballots in the mail weeks before Election Day, allowing them to carefully research candidates well ahead of time. By providing the opportunity to cast ballots in the mail, voters will be able to avoid long lines at polling stations and won’t have to take time off work to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. The federal government, through the United States Postal Service, will assist states with the costs of mailing ballots to registered voters.

    Building on Oregon’s automatic voter registration program, this bill also improves voter registration to reduce the burden on busy working Americans. The bill requires states to ensure that each citizen who provides identifying information to their state motor vehicle authority is automatically registered to vote.

    Wyden and Blumenauer first introduced the Vote-By-Mail Act in 2016.

    Background

    Oregon became the country’s first all-vote-by-mail state in 2000, and since then, has consistently ranked among the states with highest voter-turnout in the nation. Oregon voting rates are especially high among young votersand in midterm elections, when turnout traditionally lags. Oregon’s vote by mail law has deterred voter fraud by implementing security measures such as a signature authentication system. Oregon’s system also prevents potential fraud by centralizing ballot processing in the county clerk’s office, rather than at various polling sites.

    Vote by mail also has been shown to reduce Election Day costs by eliminating the need to transport equipment to polling stations and to hire and train poll workers.

    Read the article on KTVZ.com. 

    Rep. Schrader’s First Act of 116th: Introducing Good Government Reforms

    Wed, 01/02/2019 - 9:00pm

    In his first act of the 116th Congress, as we near the end of the second week of the government shutdown, Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05) today reintroduced a series of government reform bills to increase transparency and accountability, and give a voice back to the people. His bills include:

    • The Hold Congress Accountable Act, legislation to reduce the salary of Members of Congress in the event of a government shutdown for as long as the shutdown continues;
    • A constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance laws, removing the influence of big money in our government and giving power back to the people;
    • The Presidential Inaugural Committee Oversight Act which would increase transparency and accountability around the fundraising and spending of Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) money.

    “We are a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people – that means the leaders we elect should be given their power by the individual, not by big money,” said Rep. Schrader. “It also means that when we are elected, we are entrusted with great responsibility, the most important of which is passing a budget. Just as I said a year ago when we faced yet another shutdown, I wouldn’t expect a student government to operate this way, let alone the government of the most powerful nation in the world. We are also expected to remain transparent, especially around money raised or spent in the name of our elected offices. I am proud to make my first act of this new Congress reintroducing these good-government reforms because the core foundation of our democracy relies on the power in the voice of the people and depends on a Congress that works.”

    Rep. Schrader first introduced a version of the Hold Congress Accountable Act in 2013 immediately following the start of the government shutdown in October of that year, and has reintroduced the bill every Congress since. Cosponsors of the bill in the 116th Congress include Reps. Jim Cooper (TN-05), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Lou Correa (CA-46), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Max Rose (NY-11).

    The Congressman’s constitutional amendment, which he first introduced in response to the Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court decision in 2010, would limit the amount of money that special interests, corporations, and unions may spend on elections. It would give Congress the ability to regulate campaign contributions to candidates running for federal office as well as how they spend their funds on advertisements. The amendment would also give that same control to the States for state-wide elections. Additionally, the amendment would prohibit any foreign agents or citizens from contributing to candidates for any public office, or spending money in any way intended to influence the outcome of elections in the United States.

    Congressman Schrader’s bill would establish three basic requirements for all future Presidential Inauguration Committees:

    1. The committee must provide the FEC with a full list of expenditures for all committee business with regular updates until the committee is disbanded.
    2. A restriction that funds raised be spent only on official activities and not on lavish salaries or bonuses.
    3. A mandate that any surplus funds be given to a charity organization.

    Currently, the Federal Election Commission requires every PIC to disclose basic information about donations to the committee; however, no such disclosure requirements or regulations exist around the spending of the funds. Additionally, unlike political campaign laws which regulate not only disclosures but fundraising and spending, there exist no laws around how each PIC may or may not spend the money it raises under the name of the President of the United States.

    Bipartisan Bill to Control Sea Lions, Save Salmon on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers Signed Into Law

    Tue, 12/18/2018 - 9:00pm

    Today, the bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) giving tribal members and government fish managers the authority to lethally remove sea lions that are decimating endangered salmon and steelhead runs was signed into law.

    The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act passed the U.S. House earlier this year, and companion legislation passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

    “After 12 years of hard work by so many on this legislation, seeing it finally become law today represents a momentous step in the effort to protect our endangered salmon and steelhead runs. Today, we have reason to be optimistic that our fight to prevent the extinction of entire Northwest salmon runs, and the species that depend on them, can succeed,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler.

    “This has been an issue that I have worked on since first coming to Congress. I want to thank everyone – Rep. Herrera Beutler, Senators Risch and Cantwell, and our states, tribes, and local communities – for the exceptional work to get this bill over the finish line this year,” said Rep. Schrader. “In the last few years especially, we’ve seen a record number of sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam. Ratepayers and my constituents are paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually towards the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and endangered salmon. These sea lions, whose population has become totally inconsistent with their historic range, have been undoing all of that work by feasting on the endangered species. Our law will provide a great step forward in eliminating this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive once and for all.”

    “This legislation affirms our collective determination to keep Columbia River salmon robust and abundant. The entire Northwest Congressional delegation really went to bat for these fish and we’re grateful for that. We’re eager to put this new law into action and provide better balance between these species,” said Charles Hudson, Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

    “We commend the tireless, bipartisan efforts of Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Kurt Schrader and Senators Maria Cantwell and Jim Risch to give Northwest states and tribes the authority to protect wild and endangered salmon and steelhead from excessive, unnatural sea lion predation in the Columbia River basin,” said Gary Loomis, founder of G-Loomis, Edge Rods, and Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) in the Pacific Northwest. “The enactment of this science-based legislation is the culmination of a decade-long effort by Reps. Herrera Beutler and Schrader and a coalition of states, tribes, conservation organizations, and sportfishing advocates, including tens of thousands of citizens who voiced their support for this legislation that is so critical to the future of Columbia River salmon.”

    “We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, Congressman Schrader, Senators Cantwell and Risch on this effort. The legislation had the unanimous support of the Northwest delegation, and we applaud its passage and enactment into law. The increasing sea lion population in the Lower Columbia River in recent years has presented a greater threat to wild salmon and steelhead runs than ever before. The states and our tribal partners now have the tools to better protect our iconic and endangered fish populations from their predation,” said Kelly Susewind, Director of Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

    How this new law will impact Northwest salmon and steelhead:

    Historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California sea lions have killed the largest proportion of spring Chinook salmon and steelhead this year than any year since 2011. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that at the current rate, the Willamette Winter Steelhead run faces a 90 percent chance of extinction if nothing changes.

    This bipartisan legislation authorizes states and tribal members to lethally remove sea lions that are predating on endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species. The new law is supported by a broad spectrum of Northwest residents and organizations that include recreational fishermen represented by the Coastal Conservation Association, Tribes and the Oregon and Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife.

    Oregon Members Announce AVA Designation for Van Duzer Corridor

    Mon, 12/17/2018 - 9:00pm

    Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05), along with Senators Ron Wyden, and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), announced the designation of Oregon’s Van Duzer Corridor as an American Viticulture Area (AVA) this month.

    “Receiving the AVA designation is huge for our Oregon wineries and vineyards in their ability to grow in and beyond the region,” said Schrader. “This kind of recognition helps solidify the Corridor’s place on the map. I’d like to congratulate our communities and small businesses across the Van Duzer Corridor and express my appreciation to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for moving this process along this year.”

    “This great news for our state’s wineries and vineyards will allow them to build on their well-deserved national and international renown,” Wyden said. “Willamette Valley communities throughout the Van Duzer Corridor can share a celebratory toast this holiday season to earning an AVA designation that will help to create jobs and economic activity in one of Oregon’s signature industries.”

    “This designation is a huge step forward for businesses and communities in the Van Duzer Corridor region of Oregon’s beautiful, productive wine country,” Merkley said. “Our delicious pinots, Rieslings and more create jobs and fuel our tourist economy, and tools that make their business stronger should never be held up by bureaucracy. I will continue to work to be a strong federal partner to Oregon’s small businesses.”

    “Oregon’s winegrowers and winemakers have truly transformed this region and have demonstrated an incredible ethic and understanding of the land,” said Blumenauer. “This designation recognizes the unique qualities of the Van Duzer Corridor and its importance to Oregon’s wine industry, which is distinctive, delicious, and world-renowned. I’m proud to support the Van Duzer area in finally receiving this important recognition, a critical addition to one of our state’s most exciting industries.”

    “Oregon winemakers produce world-class wines and are a vital part of our economy,” said Bonamici. “I’m thrilled that the Van Duzer Corridor will be one of Oregon’s recognized American Viticulture Areas, further establishing our reputation as a producer of fine wines. This designation will help winemakers in the area get the recognition they deserve.”

    The Members sent a letter earlier this year to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on behalf of several vineyard and winery owners that expressed the value AVA designation brings to an area writing that “an AVA designation bestows tremendous advantage to the small businesses established in that area. Operating under the AVA umbrella confers a certain amount of stature that enables businesses to better promote their products at the marketplace and stabilize the financial longevity of their wine endeavors. The success that flows is good for businesses and the economic health of the state.”

    Schrader, Welch Legislation to Close Billion Dollar Medicaid Drug Rebate Loophole Passes the House

    Tue, 12/11/2018 - 9:00pm

    Legislation introduced by Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05) and Congressman Peter Welch (VT-At Large) to close a loophole in the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program that is reported to have cost the Medicaid program as much as $1 billion passed in the House this week as part of the IMPROVE Act. Reps. Schrader and Welch introduced the Medicaid Drug Rebate Accountability Act earlier this year following the release of an Inspector General report, and followed up by introducing the House version of the Right Rebate Act last week.

    “I’m pleased that our legislation was included in the IMPROVE Act and passed out of the House today,” said Rep. Schrader. “It’s ridiculous that these blatant abuses of the system have resulted in a billion dollar loss for taxpayers. Our legislation gives CMS the proper authority to deal with these inaccuracies, preventing bad actors from taking advantage of the system and honest mistakes from costing us even more money.”

    VIDEO: Rep. Schrader Urges Colleagues to Close Billion Dollar Loophole in Medicaid Drug Rebate Program

    “For too long, drug companies have been ripping off the Medicaid program by misclassifying their products to limit required price discounts,” said Rep. Welch. “This commonsense legislation puts a stop to this unethical practice and ensures that all drugs covered by Medicaid are correctly classified.”

    Under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, drug manufacturers who wish to have their drugs covered by Medicaid must pay a rebate to federal and state governments, and the rebate rate is different for brand drugs, at 23.1 percent of the Average Manufacturer Price (AMP) per unit, and generic drugs, at 13 percent of AMP per unit. When applying for the rebate, the manufacturer must indicate whether their drug is brand or generic. According to an HHS Inspector General Report published in December of last year, however, hundreds of drugs in the rebate program that should be considered brand were marked in their applications as generic. That same report found that this may have cost the rebate program upwards of $1 billion.

    Under the Schrader-Welch legislation, if a drug company knowingly misclassifies their brand drug as a generic, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will have the power to fine the drug company double the normal rebate they would have had to pay the government. The bill strengthens CMS and congressional oversight of the program to close the loophole.

    Bipartisan Bill to Save Salmon On the Columbia and Willamette Rivers Headed to the President’s Desk

    Mon, 12/10/2018 - 9:00pm

    The bipartisan Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, led by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) in the House, passed out of Congress today and is headed to the President’s desk to become law. The legislation gives tribal members and government fish managers the authority to remove sea lions from specific areas of the Columbia River system and its tributaries where they are posing the most harm to endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish runs.

    “This has been an issue that I have worked on since first coming to Congress. I want to thank everyone – Rep. Herrera Beutler, Senators Risch and Cantwell, and our states, tribes, and local communities – for the exceptional work to get this bill over the finish line this year,” said Rep. Schrader. “In the last few years especially, we’ve seen a record number of sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam. Ratepayers and my constituents are paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually towards the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and endangered salmon. These sea lions, whose population has become totally inconsistent with their historic range, have been undoing all of that work by feasting on the endangered species. Our legislation will provide a great step forward in eliminating this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive once and for all.”

    “Today’s passage of our bill to control sea lions was a hard-fought victory – it’s a personal victory for each of us who treasure our Northwest salmon runs and want to see them preserved for generations to come,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler. “I’m grateful for the partnership of my colleague Kurt Schrader, and for Senators Risch and Cantwell for shepherding this through the Senate. I’m so pleased we are able to give Northwest fish managers this critical tool to help save our salmon and steelhead runs.”

    Historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California sea lions have killed the largest proportion of spring Chinook salmon and steelhead this year than any year since 2011. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that at the current rate, the Willamette Winter Steelhead run faces a 90 percent chance of extinction if nothing changes.

    This bipartisan legislation authorizes states and tribal members to lethally remove sea lions that are predating on endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species. The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act is supported by a broad spectrum of Northwest residents and organizations that include recreational fishermen represented by the Coastal Conservation Association, Tribes and the Oregon and Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife.