Warner & Kaine Statement on Nominations of Heytens for Fourth Circuit and Giles, Nachmanoff for Eastern District of Virginia

Source: United States Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine

June 30, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on President Biden’s nominations of Virginia Solicitor General Toby J. Heytens for the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Patricia Tolliver Giles and U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff for the vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division.

“We are pleased that the President has nominated Mr. Heytens, Ms. Giles, and Judge Nachmanoff to fill these vacancies,” said the Senators. “Based on their fairness, temperament, and integrity, we believe they will all serve Virginia and the country with distinction. We hope our colleagues will join us to support these well-qualified nominees.” 

In May, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to the President, recommending Mr. Heytens, along with U.S. District Court Judges Arenda Wright Allen and Hannah Lauck, for the vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit following Judge Barbara M. Keenan’s decision to take senior status in August 2021. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is based in Richmond and hears federal appeals from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. 

In April, the Senators sent a letter to President Biden, recommending Ms. Giles and U.S. Magistrate Judge Nachmanoff for the vacancy in the Alexandria Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia following Judge Liam O’Grady’s decision to take senior status. Shortly thereafter, another vacancy opened in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to succeed Judge Anthony Trenga, who assumed senior status June 1, 2021.

These nominations are subject to confirmation by the full Senate.

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Manchin, Capito Join Bipartisan Letter to Ambassador Tai Highlighting Importance of Reconvening Trade Talks with Taiwan

Source: United States Senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin

June 30, 2021

Washington, DC — U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and today joined their colleagues in sending a letter led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai highlighting the importance of reconvening trade agreement talks with Taiwan.

 

We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan,” the Senators wrote

“Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like,” the Senators continued.

“Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need,” the Senators concluded.

In addition to Senators Manchin, Capito, Rubio, and Warner, the following senators also signed the letter: Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Conn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

The full letter can be viewed below:

Dear Ambassador Tai:

As you move to establish your early priorities, we are pleased to see that the resumption of talks with Taiwan under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is among your areas of focus. The last TIFA meeting was held in October 2016, which is far too long ago when one considers Taiwan’s importance as a trade partner to the United States. For this reason, we were gratified to see reports that you held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s top trade official, John Deng, on June 9, 2021 and committed to reconvene TIFA talks in the coming weeks. We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan. 

In August 2020, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced her intention to remove, and later removed, what had been a major obstacle to the pursuit of a FTA: import restrictions on certain U.S. beef and pork products. It is now time for the United States to reciprocate and begin negotiations. It is clear that the United States stands to gain much in doing so. 

Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like. It will facilitate free trade under fair conditions that allow American workers, producers, and companies alike to flourish. Advanced economies such as Singapore and New Zealand have paved the way by signing their own FTAs with Taiwan. 

Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need. Despite Beijing’s endless efforts to isolate and bully, Taiwan remains everything we want the Indo-Pacific region to be: a democratic, free market economy that is a reliable partner to the United States. Lastly, trade talks with Taiwan are also of great strategic importance. Maintaining U.S. economic influence in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensuring that the region remains free and open. 

Thank you again for committing to resume TIFA talks with Taiwan in the coming weeks. We appreciate your continued attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,

Baldwin, Bennet Request Review of Issues Facing Older LGBTQ Adults to Ensure High-Quality Care

Source: United States Senator for Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin

06.30.21

Senators Urge HHS, CMS to Issue Guidance to Help Hospice and Palliative Care Agencies, Hospitals, Long Term Care Facilities Provide Care to LGBTQ Seniors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Michael Bennet (D-CO) urged Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to review a number of issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) seniors to improve high-quality, culturally competent care to this growing aging population. 

“With a growing aging population there is greater urgency to address the palliative and end-of-life care needs among this population,” wrote Baldwin and Bennet. “LGBT persons have unique health needs and have experienced disparate health care due to discrimination based on their sexual minority status and associated fear of disclosure of their sexual orientation or gender identity to health care providers. These fears are steeped in historical discriminatory trauma as LGBT persons have been persecuted.”

Currently, there are over one million LGBTQ persons 65 and older in the United States. But over a third are fearful that they will not receive treatment with dignity and respect by medical providers. 

“Over 60 percent of interprofessional palliative care and hospice providers report that family members and friends of LGBT patients were more likely to experience discrimination than heterosexual patients,” continued Baldwin and Bennet. “Many of these providers noted observing discriminatory actions such as inadequate and disrespectful care of the patient and family, friends and surrogates having their treatment decisions disregarded or minimized and being treated disrespectfully, as well.”

The senators are urging HHS and CMS to issue guidance for hospitals, long-term-care facilities, and agencies in palliative and hospice care for LGBTQ older adults based on the work of SAGE, a national organization serving LGBTQ older adults, or similar organizations. This training may assist long-term-care facilities and agencies in palliative and hospice care through a cultural humility lens, allowing for greater acceptance and comfort while patients are ill and at the end-of-life.

Baldwin and Bennet are also asking HHS and CMS to reverse changes made by the Trump Administration to eliminate sexual orientation and gender identity questions from the National Survey of Older American Act Participants. Additionally, the senators request the agencies move forward with plans previously halted by the last administration to add a sexual orientation category and a transgender identity field in the national disability survey.

The text of the letter is available HERE and below:

The Honorable Xavier Becerra                                The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Secretary of Health and Human Services                Administrator

Department of Health and Human Services              Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

200 Independence Avenue, SW                             7500 Security Boulevard

Washington, DC 20201                                           Baltimore, MD 21244

Dear Secretary Becerra and Administrator Brooks-LaSure:

We write to request review of issues facing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) older adult population, including those who are seriously ill or at the end-of-life, to improve high-quality, culturally competent care and request a briefing on the subject. We urge you to use all appropriate authority to improve data collection and issue guidance for providers, specifically to support LGBT older Americans receiving palliative and hospice care. 

At this time, there are well over one million LGBT persons 65 and older in the United States. With a growing aging population, there is greater urgency to address the palliative and end-of-life care needs among this population. LGBT persons have unique health needs and have experienced disparate health care due to discrimination based on their sexual minority status and associated fear of disclosure of their sexual orientation or gender identity to health care providers. These fears are steeped in historical discriminatory trauma as LGBT persons have been persecuted. At times, individuals have experienced harassment and violence in their communities, and for decades, it was a crime to be a member of the LGBT community in America. This is especially true for older LGBT adults and these specific fears pose as a barrier to their accessing and receiving high-quality, culturally competent care. Over a third of LGBT older adults are fearful that they will not receive treatment with dignity and respect by medical providers. Moreover, specific to Palliative and end-of –life care, over 60 percent of interprofessional palliative care and hospice providers report that family members and friends of LGBT patients were more likely to experience discrimination than heterosexual patients.3 Many of these providers noted observing discriminatory actions including inadequate and disrespectful care of the patient. Family, friends, and surrogates have had their treatment decisions disregarded or minimized and been treated disrespectfully, as well. The previous administration eliminated the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions once included in the National Survey of Older American Act Participants (NSOAAP). It is critically important that you reincorporate these questions. Going forward, we also request inclusion of a sexual orientation category and a transgender identity field in the national disability survey, as was planned prior to the previous administration.

In addition, we request guidance for hospitals, long-term-care facilities, and agencies in the provision of palliative and hospice care for LGBT older adults. Guidance developed based on the work of SAGE, a national organization serving LGBT older adults, or similar organizations that provides a model for training staff to identify abuse of LGBT patients, will encourage respectful and competent treatment. This manualized training may assist long-term-care facilities and agencies in palliative and hospice care provision through a cultural humility lens, allowing for greater acceptance and comfort while ill and at the end-of-life.

We look forward to your response confirming these actions and to schedule a briefing with our staff.

Sincerely,

Tuberville Op-Ed: Time to Cut Out the Middle Man and Get Prescription Drug Prices Down

Source: United States Senator for Alabama Tommy Tuberville

Tuberville Op-Ed: Time to Cut Out the Middle Man and Get Prescription Drug Prices Down

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) authored the following op-ed for the Washington Times on helping patients and independent pharmacies by bringing greater transparency to the practices of large pharmacy benefit managers. 

Time to Cut Out the Middle Man and Get Prescription Drug Prices Down

Tommy Tuberville

Washington Times

May 18, 2021

LINK

Our great country was founded on hard work and competition. That sense of grit is the main principle in our free-market economy where consumers have choice, because competition breeds choice, better quality, and better prices for customers.

But not everywhere. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t have that choice when it comes to prescription drugs. The prices of life-saving medications keep going up. According to the AARP, prescription drug prices are rising even faster than inflation. Americans’ spending on medicines jumped 200% between 2000 and 2020. It’s time the American people start to question why this is happening.

Folks may not be familiar with Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs, but they live with the effects of PBMs almost every time they go to fill a prescription and have to dig deep in their wallet to pay for it.

PBMs are essentially middlemen in the prescription drug supply chain. They negotiate with drug manufacturers to secure discounts on medications by adding those medications to insurance plans’ formularies. They contract with pharmacies and insurance plans to process and pay prescription drug claims. 

PBMs claim they help patients by negotiating lower prices from drug manufacturers. But the fact is PBMs rarely, if ever, pass those savings on to patients. More often, PBMs use their bargaining power to bring the cost of a drug down but pocket the difference for themselves. The PBMs get richer, while patients get squeezed. 

Moreover, PBMs determine which pharmacies will be included in a prescription drug plan’s network and can force smaller pharmacies to accept lower profits for each prescription filled. As one report on Florida’s Medicaid managed care program found, “PBM-affiliated pharmacies are making 18x to 109x more profit over the cost of the drugs than the typical community pharmacy.”

Smaller, independent pharmacies can’t compete with the PBM heavyweights and are often told, “take it or leave it.” If they take the PBM’s offer, they’re forced to operate on incredibly tight profit margins. If they don’t, their patients don’t have access to the drugs. The mom-and-pop pharmacists lose, and the patients lose, but the corporate PBMs win.

We’ve seen this trend nationally. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of independent pharmacies decreased by nearly 1,300, or 6 percent. But where this is particularly concerning is in our rural communities, like those across the state of Alabama.

We’ve got nearly 600 independent community pharmacies across my state, filling more than 32 million prescriptions. More than half of those prescriptions are for Medicare Part D and Medicaid patients. Closing down a competitor pharmacy may be a success for a giant PBM, but it can be devastating to the business owners, their families and employees, even the community itself.

That is especially true for many rural areas, where the local pharmacy is many folks’ only access to health care within a few dozen miles. In Alabama, we’ve lost 14 rural hospitals in the last 10 years, further underscoring local pharmacies’ importance as a vital piece of health care delivery in rural communities. 

Coming out of a global pandemic, during which our rural health systems were already over-stretched, we should focus efforts on protecting and bolstering patients’ access to care. Allowing PBMs to run roughshod over mom-and-pop pharmacies cannot continue.

The state of Alabama took a good first step in passing a law earlier this year that would give more oversight and transparency to PBMs’ practices. Among other things, the law prohibits PBMs from requiring the purchase of pharmacist services through a certain mail-order or retail pharmacy. The law also stops PBMs from banning pharmacists informing patients about more affordable alternatives to the drugs the patient is prescribed.

But more transparency of PBMs’ actions is needed. That’s why I’ve cosponsored the Prescription Pricing for the People Act. This bipartisan billrequires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study anticompetitive practices by PBMs within the pharmaceutical supply chain. Since PBMs refuse to show exactly how much of the savings they pass down to independent pharmacies, further study by the FTC will help shine a light on PBMs’ backroom practices. If the PBMs really do pass on savings to consumers as they claim, I’m sure they will welcome the opportunity to show it to the public.

Independent pharmacy owners and the patients they serve deserve better. I firmly believe we can bring back free and fair competition to the health care marketplace that will benefit consumers and providers alike. It’s past time we change the status quo, give independent pharmacies a fair shot, and ensure patients have better access to the life-saving prescription drugs they need.

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.

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Senator Markey, Reps. Castor and Trahan Press Major Tech Companies to Extend Online Protections Required Under a New U.K. Statutory Code to Children and Teens in the United States

Source: United States Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey

Under U.K. code, companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter will need to implement additional online privacy protections by September 2, 2021

 

Washington (June 30, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Lori Trahan (MA-03) today sent a letter to the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter, urging them to extend privacy protections required under the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) to children and teens in the United States. The AADC is a statutory code of practice that requires all commercial online services—including apps, search engines, social media platforms, and online games—that are likely to be accessed by young users’ in the United Kingdom to meet fifteen standards that protect children and teens’ privacy and wellbeing online. These standards include protections for both children and teens up to 18 years old, and they limit the amount of data companies can collect from young users. In their letter, the lawmakers express concerns about threats to young people’s online privacy amidst the recent rise in children and teens’ technology use and argue that, as companies update their data practices to comply with the AADC, they should apply those same practices in the United States.

“Today, children and teens encounter constant threats to their privacy online,” write the lawmakers in their letter. “It is imperative that Congress acts with urgency to enact a strong privacy law for children and teens in the 21st century. As we work towards that goal, we urge [companies] to extend to American children and teens any privacy enhancements that [they] implement to comply with the AADC.”

Senator Markey and Representative Castor have both introduced legislation that would update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) with protections similar to those in the AADC. These protections include extending privacy protections to teens, amending COPPA to cover websites that should reasonably know that kids are on their platforms, and creating new data minimization standards to stop websites from amassing troves of information about young users.
A copy of the letters can be found HERE.

In their letter, the lawmakers ask the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter to respond to questions surrounding their commitment to extend AADC privacy protections to children and teens in the United States, including:

  • Will you commit to providing American children and teens with the same privacy enhancements that you provide in the United Kingdom in accordance with the AADC?
  • If so, what specific privacy enhancements will you implement for users in the United States? Please describe in detail when you plan to implement these enhancements for users in the United States.
  • If not, why not?

As July 4th Travel Approaches, Senators Markey and Blumenthal, Reps. Cohen and García Urge DOT to Pursue Airline Cash Refunds and Ensure Flight Credits Do Not Expire

Source: United States Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey

In the wake of airlines’ refusal to voluntarily do right by the flying public, lawmakers call on DOT to use its consumer protection authority to preserve travelers’ hard-earned dollars

Washington (June 30, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Representative Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04) today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) urging the agency to protect air travelers from an unfair business practice that has pervaded aviation during the coronavirus pandemic – the denial of cash refunds for canceled flights and the issuance of flight credits that will soon expire. This letter follows another sent to all of the major domestic airlines in May of this year, requesting that airlines voluntarily work with lawmakers to make pandemic-related travel credits valid indefinitely by default. Regrettably, the failure of most airlines to provide refunds or promise that these credits will never expire has made it clear that strong action by the DOT is necessary.

During the ongoing emergency, many Americans have proactively canceled their flights at the urging of health officials – only to find themselves ineligible for refunds that would have been available had they waited for airlines to cancel their flights for them. In the place of refunds, airlines provided passengers with temporary travel credits that have already expired or will expire before many Americans feel safe traveling again. Additionally, many airlines have imposed conditions on travel credits that consumers have struggled to navigate, leaving many Americans unable to redeem their travel credits or only able to redeem them at a loss, even as the industry sits on more than $10 billion in unused travel credits.

“The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for air travelers, and consumers deserve cash refunds for tickets canceled during the pandemic,” write the lawmakers in their letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “At a minimum, it is imperative that all flight credits issued during the pandemic are made valid indefinitely by default and frequent flier miles do not expire as a result of travelers having chosen not to fly during the pandemic. We urge you to act swiftly to address these concerns, and we stand ready to work with you to protect air travelers. There should be no expiration date for consumer protection.”

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
During the prior Congress, Senators Markey and Blumenthal led their colleagues in demanding airlines offer cash refunds instead of temporary flight credits. Senators Markey and Blumenthal and Representative Cohen also filed legislation that would require the return of travelers’ money. Today’s efforts build on these lawmakers’ prior work and continue their fight to preserve consumers’ hard-earned dollars.

Markey, Warren McGovern, Trahan Call Out Tenet’s Corporate Greed During COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: United States Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey

Tenet Prioritizes Profit Over Worker Safety as St. Vincent Nurses Strike Reaches Day 115

 

Washington (June 30, 2021) United States Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02) and Lori Trahan (MA-03), sent a letter to Tenet Health (Tenet) Chief Executive Officer Ronald A. Rittenmeyer questioning the company’s use of taxpayer funds, including federal CARES Act grants and loans, to enrich its executives and shareholders rather than meet the needs of its health care workers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced in part by an ongoing nurses’ strike in Massachusetts and other Tenet facilities across the nation.

In the early months of the public health and economic crisis, Tenet furloughed staff and postponed the delivery of employee benefits, while seeking over $2 billion in loans and grants from the federal government, an effort that was aimed at “maximizing [Tenet’s] cash position.” Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenet had an extraordinarily profitable year in 2020, reporting annual earnings of over $3.1 billion and $2.9 billion in available credit. To date, Tenet has received over $936 million in grants from the Provider Relief Fund and over $1.5 billion more in relief from Medicare Advance Payments and payroll tax match deferrals.
The pandemic exerted an extraordinary physical, mental, emotional, and economic toll on patients and health care workers, but Tenet’s top executives and major shareholders reaped massive profits during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In FY 2020, Tenet posted an annual profit of more than $3.1 billion, even after completing a $1.1 billion acquisition of 45 ambulatory surgery centers-leading to a five-fold increase in Tenet’s share price from March 20, 2020 to June 16, 2021. Chief Executive Officer Ronald A. Rittenmeyer  received almost $17 million in total compensation and Executive Vice President and CFO Daniel J. Cancelmi’s compensation totaled over $7 million.

“The apparent greed of Tenet Healthcare during an unprecedented public health emergency and economic crisis is astounding, particularly in light of the billions in taxpayer assistance received by your company, and the ongoing failure to address the concerns of its frontline health care workers,” the lawmakers wrote.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Meanwhile, Tenet workers in hospitals across the country are currently on strike seeking better pay and conditions. At St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, 800 professional nurses have been striking for nearly four months, after Tenet walked away from a two-year negotiation effort in which nurses asked Tenet “to implement desperately needed staffing increases to improve the patient care conditions at the facility.” Seven weeks after having walked away from the table, Tenet made a settlement offer to the nurses this past weekend, but that offer reportedly removes financial proposals that had previously been part of the negotiations.

In order to better understand the financial and economic decisions of Tenet executives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of these decisions on workers and patients, the lawmakers request more information on how the company spent its federal relief money.

As nurses at St. Vincent Hospital reach day 115 of their strike, the lawmakers continue to urge Tenet to return to the table with meaningful proposals and conclude negotiations so that St. Vincent nurses can go back to work caring for the community.

As Biden Weighs “Bailouts” for Big Oil, Ernst Holds President Accountable for His Campaign Promises

Source: United States Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA)

RED OAK, Iowa – With reports indicating the Biden Administration is weighing bailouts for Big Oil and undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is holding President Biden accountable for the promises he made on the campaign trail to support the biofuel industry and the family farmers who rely on it.
 
Ernst is leading a letter to Biden, along with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and others, reminding the president of his statements during his campaign supposedly supporting biofuel in light of recent reports about his consideration of bending to the demands of Big Oil.
 
The lawmakers write: “During your campaign for President, you indicated your support for biofuel and your intent to ‘promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol and other biofuel.’ […] Yet now that you are president, having no doubt heard the same tired and debunked complaints from big oil refiners about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) harming them, you are reportedly considering bailouts for these refineries, which would undermine the biofuel industry and the family farmers who rely on it.”
 
They go on: “While we are aware of the power of the oil lobby, and its efforts to influence your administration, I urge you not to bend to their demands to undercut the RFS, by either reducing annual blending obligations, or any by other means that destroys demand for clean renewable ethanol and biodiesel. The farmers and biofuel industries in our states would welcome the same access to your National Climate Advisor to discuss shared priorities.”
 
Ernst has been a longtime champion of Iowa’s biofuel producers and farmers and a fierce defender of the RFS.  Just recently, Ernst and Grassley sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on recent actions by the Biden Administration that have the potential to harm Iowa’s agriculture industry, including the rumored plans to undercut the RFS.
 

Rubio Requests HUD Take Immediate Action at Cambridge Management Properties in Florida

Source: United States Senator for Florida Marco Rubio

Miami, FL  — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge to take immediate action to ensure safe and sanitary living conditions at several properties throughout the State of Florida being managed by Cambridge Management Inc. under the Section 8 Project Based Rental Assistance program.
 
In May, Rubio sent a letter to Secretary Fudge requesting immediate action to improve the living conditions for constituents living at Hilltop Village Apartments, a Cambridge Management property, in Jacksonville, Florida. Since then, Rubio’s office found that, in addition to Hilltop Village Apartments, Cambridge Management, Inc. is responsible for the management of seven other properties that have failing Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection scores throughout the State of Florida in the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program.
 
“Over the last two years, HUD has provided more than $17.5 million in federal financial assistance to the seven aforementioned properties,” Rubio wrote. “Last month, my staff visited all of these properties and saw conditions that are unsafe and unsanitary, including chronic garbage overflow and general disrepair at Gadsden Arms Apartments.”
 
“I urge that immediate action be taken at these properties to ensure that tenants are afforded the living conditions they are guaranteed by law,” Rubio continued. “This would include both new REAC inspections, and Management and Occupancy Reviews (MOR) for all properties managed by Cambridge Management, Inc. throughout the State of Florida, and the enforcement of any applicable penalties, with priority given to safety and sanitation concerns.”
 
The full text of the letter is below. 
 
Dear Secretary Fudge:
 
I write to direct your attention to the mismanagement of properties by Cambridge Management, Inc. in the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 
 
As I wrote to you on May 4, 2021, my office received direct outreach from constituents who are tenants at Hilltop Village Apartments in Jacksonville, Florida, which is contractually managed by Cambridge Management, Inc. When my staff visited, they found disturbing evidence of chronic administrative neglect, including a severe rodent infestation and chronic garbage overflow throughout the property. I also expressed concern that this property had not undergone its mandatory Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection since December 2, 2015, which appears to violate HUD’s Uniform Physical Condition Standards that clearly state this property should have received an inspection within two years. While a REAC inspection was performed on May 11, 2021, it was unacceptable that the residents of Hilltop Village Apartments were obligated to live under these conditions, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the results of this inspection have not been provided to my staff.
 
In addition to Hilltop Village Apartments, Cambridge Management, Inc. is responsible for the management of seven other properties that have failing REAC inspection scores throughout the State of Florida in the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance program. These properties include:
 

  1. Silver Oaks Apartments in Tampa, Florida with a failing score of 40/100 on March 6, 2020.
  2. Lincoln Fields Apartments in Miami, Florida with a failing score of 44/100 on March 6, 2020.
  3. BCC Apartments in Miami, Florida with a failing score of 45/100 on March 10, 2020.
  4. Gadsden Arms Apartments in Quincy, Florida with a failing score of 47/100 on December 11, 2019.
  5. Pembroke Tower Apartments in Pembroke Pines, Florida with a failing score of 53/100 on October 17, 2018.
  6. Jackson Heights in Tampa, Florida with a failing score of 55/100 on August 10, 2019.
  7. Emerald Place Apartments in Titusville, Florida with a failing score of 57/100 on December 20, 2019.

 
Furthermore, Pembroke Tower Apartments was most recently inspected on October 17, 2018. This appears to violate HUD’s Uniform Physical Condition Standards for failing properties, which requires inspections to be performed within one year. While inspections were delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic until June 1, 2021, this property should have been inspected months prior to the pandemic.
 
Over the last two years, HUD has provided more than $17.5 million in federal financial assistance to the seven aforementioned properties. Last month, my staff visited all of these properties and saw conditions that are unsafe and unsanitary, including chronic garbage overflow and general disrepair at Gadsden Arms Apartments.
 
I urge that immediate action be taken at these properties to ensure that tenants are afforded the living conditions they are guaranteed by law. This would include both new REAC inspections, and Management and Occupancy Reviews (MOR) for all properties managed by Cambridge Management, Inc. throughout the State of Florida, and the enforcement of any applicable penalties, with priority given to safety and sanitation concerns.
 
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to working with you to protect the people and families of Florida.
 
Sincerely,
 

Rubio, Warner Lead Bipartisan Letter to Ambassador Tai Highlighting Importance of Reconvening Trade Talks with Taiwan

Source: United States Senator for Florida Marco Rubio

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, highlighting the importance of reconvening trade agreement talks with Taiwan. 

“We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan,” the Senators wrote

“Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like,” the Senators continued.

“Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need,” the Senators concluded.

Joining Rubio and Warner in sending the letter were Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Todd Young (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), James Lankford (R-OK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN). 

Dear Ambassador Tai: 

As you move to establish your early priorities, we are pleased to see that the resumption of talks with Taiwan under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is among your areas of focus. The last TIFA meeting was held in October 2016, which is far too long ago when one considers Taiwan’s importance as a trade partner to the United States. For this reason, we were gratified to see reports that you held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s top trade official, John Deng, on June 9, 2021 and committed to reconvene TIFA talks in the coming weeks. We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan.  

In August 2020, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced her intention to remove, and later removed, what had been a major obstacle to the pursuit of a FTA: import restrictions on certain U.S. beef and pork products. It is now time for the United States to reciprocate and begin negotiations. It is clear that the United States stands to gain much in doing so.  

Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like. It will facilitate free trade under fair conditions that allow American workers, producers, and companies alike to flourish. Advanced economies such as Singapore and New Zealand have paved the way by signing their own FTAs with Taiwan.  

Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need. Despite Beijing’s endless efforts to isolate and bully, Taiwan remains everything we want the Indo-Pacific region to be: a democratic, free market economy that is a reliable partner to the United States. Lastly, trade talks with Taiwan are also of great strategic importance. Maintaining U.S. economic influence in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensuring that the region remains free and open.  

Thank you again for committing to resume TIFA talks with Taiwan in the coming weeks. We appreciate your continued attention to this important matter.  

Sincerely,