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By: Christopher Jacobs of the Federalist

As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Once again, Senate Republicans are preparing to flip-flop on taxpayer funding of plans that cover abortion. In June, I discussed how unnamed Senate Republican sources claimed that their “repeal-and-replace” legislation would preserve Obamacare’s “restrictions on abortion funding,” even though Republicans have spent the past seven years arguing that the law provides taxpayer funding of plans that cover abortion.

Those same unnamed sources are now trying to claim that the Obamacare “stability” bill does not need additional restrictions on abortion funding. As Politico reports:

[Senate Republicans are] stressing that Obamacare already has prohibitions on using federal funds for abortions that are not because of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life. Anti-abortion groups didn’t trust the Obama Administration to enforce those prohibitions. That prohibition could carry more weight now. ‘We have a pro-life Administration that has agreed to more stringently enforce the life protections,’ a Senate Republican source said.

That claim might sound nice now, but it’s not what Republicans have argued since Obamacare passed, nor is it consistent with the facts. To claim otherwise insults the intelligence of the pro-life community, and voters at large.

Let’s Go Down Memory Lane

In June, I cited several floor speeches during the Obamacare debate where congressional leaders argued that Obamacare includes taxpayer funding of abortions. For instance, here’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as the House prepared to vote on Obamacare: “Democrats over in the House want to approve the Senate bill without actually voting on it. These Democrats want to approve a bill that rewrites one-sixth of the economy, forces taxpayers to pay for abortions, raises taxes in the middle of a recession, and slashes Medicare for seniors, without leaving their fingerprints on it” (emphasis mine).

Astute observers might notice the wording of McConnell’s remarks. The Senate majority leader did not say that “Obamacare might force taxpayers to fund abortion coverage, depending upon how the administration implements the law.” He did not say that “We need to elect a pro-life administration to prevent Obamacare from providing taxpayer funding of abortion coverage.” He flatly stated that Obamacare “forces taxpayers to pay for abortions”—period, end of story.

The current vice president, Mike Pence, said the same thing. While serving in the House, he delivered a floor speech that unequivocally equated Obamacare with taxpayer funding of abortion coverage:

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us tonight doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t fix the fact that this is a government takeover of health care that’s going to mandate that every American buy health insurance whether they want it or need it or not. It doesn’t fix the fact that it includes about $600 billion in job-killing tax increases in the worst economy in 30 years. It doesn’t fix the fact this bill provides public funding for elective abortion for the first time in American history (emphasis added).

Law Trumps Executive Action

McConnell, Pence, and many others had good reason for their statements. As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) noted in December 2009, Obamacare’s abortion funding restrictions are “significantly weaker” than the Hyde Amendment—a provision designed to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion since 1976—making them “completely unacceptable” in Hatch’s view, and in the view of most pro-lifers.

As to Republican staffers’ claims that the Trump administration can “fix” the flawed statutory language through executive orders or more robust enforcement, here’s what pro-life Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) had to say about that in March 2010:

This bill expands abortion funding to the greatest extent in history. I have heard that the President is contemplating an executive order to try to limit this. Members should not be fooled. Executive orders cannot override the clear intent of a statute….If an executive order moves the abortion funding in this bill away from where it is now, it will be struck down as unconstitutional because executive orders cannot constitutionally do that.

Other House members made the same argument in March 2010, including Dan Lungren(R-CA) and Joe Pitts (R-PA). Their argument applies just as equally to Republican presidents and administrations as it does to Democratic ones.

Moreover, conservatives who believe in limited government should not ask President Trump to exceed his executive authority, and a blanket funding on Obamacare’s abortion coverage would do just that. As I wrote in January, “a Republican Administration should not be tempted to ‘use unilateral actions to achieve conservative ends.’ Such behavior represents a contradiction in terms.” Not only can the Trump administration not stop funding of abortion coverage unilaterally, it should not attempt to try, if doing so would exceed its legal authority.

Don’t Insult Voters’ Intelligence

Just as the Trump administration should not try to exceed its authority in shutting down federal funding of abortion coverage, Senate Republicans should not attempt to insult voters by pretending that those efforts will succeed legally, or that the “completely unacceptable” abortion “protections” Hatch described in 2009 are now sufficient.

As I noted in October, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) failed even to understand the need for pro-life protections when crafting his “stability” bill earlier this fall. Leadership claiming pro-life protections are unnecessary when Alexander never bothered to consider them literally adds insult to injury.

Senate Republicans have already attempted to claim that the insurer “stability” bill will bring benefits to taxpayers, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes the bill will give a windfall directly to insurance companies. They should not worsen the spectacle of rationalizing bad policy by attempting to render seven years of arguments they made to the pro-life community meaningless—for they only beclown themselves in the process.

Mr. Jacobs is founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, a policy consulting firm based in Washington. He is on Twitter: @chrisjacobsHC.

By: National Pork Producers Council

Led by the state of Indiana, the attorneys general for 13 states this week filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts over its ban on the sale of out-of-state meat and eggs from animals raised in certain housing. Massachusetts voters in November 2016 approved a ballot initiative that banned certain housing for pigs, egg-laying hens and veal calves.

The AGs are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the ban on the sale of meat and eggs from animals raised in housing systems prohibited by the state, which is set to take effect in 2022, violates the U.S. Constitution and the Commerce Clause’s original goal of preventing states from enacting barriers to interstate commerce and regulating commercial activities that take place beyond their borders.

The lawsuit, filed directly with the high court based on its original jurisdiction over disputes between states, follows a similar suit. That suit also was filed by 13 states – led by the attorney general of Missouri – challenging a similar law restricting access to retail markets in California.

NPPC fought both the Massachusetts and California initiatives and now is supporting the “No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017” (H.R. 2887), legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., that would prohibit states from imposing regulatory burdens on businesses, including pork operations, not physically present in the state.

Earlier this year, NPPC CEO Neil Dierks testified on the bill before a House Judiciary subcommittee, saying: “Several states – most with little pork production – have banned gestation stalls, either through ballot initiatives or legislation. That was their prerogative, however ill-advised or uninformed their motives were. What NPPC and pork producers object to is one state adopting a law or regulation that dictates the practices of the other 49 states.”

By: Mike Bleech of the Erie Times-News

Since being discovered in a captive mule deer at a Colorado laboratory in the late 1960s, Chronic Wasting Disease has spread to several states and Canadian provinces, as well as overseas. CWD threatens most cervid populations in North America, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. Most, if not all, states and provinces where it has been detected have enacted legislation and adopted regulations to prevent its spread.

Now help might be coming in the form of federal legislation to combat CWD on the national level.

Congressman Ron Kind, WI, and Congressman Jamie Sensenbrenner, WI, introduced on Nov. 21 the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act (H.R. 4454). This bipartisan legislation would support state and tribal efforts to develop and implement strategies for dealing with CWD. Also it would support research efforts into causes of CWD, and methods for controlling further spread of the disease.

It was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and to the Committee on Natural Resources, which referred it on Nov. 29 to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Why Committee on Federal Lands but not to Committee on Natural Resources where it would seem to belong? Isn’t that passing the buck? (There’s a bad joke in that.)

Diverting funds to deal with CWD is adversely affecting other wildlife programs that were already stretched thin. This bill would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to authorize $35 million to state and tribal wildlife agencies, and agriculture agencies, to implement CWD management strategies. Grants would become available to entities involved in CWD research. Land management agencies in the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior would work collaboratively with state agencies to address the spread of CWD.

CWD belongs with a group of neurodegenerative disorders that includes Mad Cow Disease that are caused by prions. Prions are infected proteins. Once it has been detected clinically in a cervid, it is always fatal.

CWD has a disheartening capacity for rapid spread. It can be spread directly from animal to animal. It appears that this disease is spread from cervid to cervid, perhaps through feces, urine or saliva. It might be spread from mother to fawn. It can be spread in the habitat for a couple of years after infection.

CWD has been detected in either wild herds or captive herds in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New York. In additions, it has been found in Canada — Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Wild herds are infected in 21 states. This is a growing list.

Between 2004 and 2010, South Korea reported CWD in captive herds. Those animals had been imported from Canada. Also in South Korea, varieties of Sika deer and red deer in a captive facility contracted CWD from elk. Norway reported CWD in 2016.

Symptoms of CWD generally affect behavior. Potential signs are excessive drinking and urinating, a blank stare, repetitive walking, less interaction with other animals, weak appearance and lowered head. The animal probably will be thin. None of these can be considered conclusive evidence of CWD since other disorders may have the same symptoms.

Currently there is no way to test live deer for CWD. Testing requires examination of the brain, tonsils or lymph nodes after death.

Here in Pennsylvania an executive order directed the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas where CWD has been detected. DMA 1 is in Adams County where CWD was detected in 2012 at a captive deer farm. This has since been eliminated. DMA 2 was established where CWD infected deer were detected in wild populations in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Fulton counties from 2012 to 2017, and at captive deer herds in Bedford, Franklin and Fulton counties in 2017.

And getting much too close to the northwestern counties, DMA 3 was established after CWD was detected in a captive deer herd in Jefferson County during 2014, as well as when free-ranging deer were detected with CWD in Clearfield County in 2017.

I would like to urge federal lawmakers to quickly pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act. This could be the salvation of an industry that is important to the budgets of the states and provinces where CWD occurs, to states threatened by it, and to the cherished American traditions of hunting and wildlife watching. This is particularly important to rural communities that depend on income from wildlife tourism.

Washington, D.C.— Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) sent a letter to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to complete the agency’s statutory requirement for informing Congress of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) impact on our environment.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “As policymakers, we rely on updated data and analysis to make informed decisions. I welcome additional research into the RFS by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as the EPA has done a poor job of informing Congress of any adverse environmental impacts of our national biofuels mandate.”

The full text of the letter is available below:

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2018, proposing that 19.29 billion gallons of renewable fuel be blended in our fuel supply, with the lion’s share going to conventional biofuel. While a primary driver behind the RFS’s creation and expansion was to give the United States greater energy independence– an issue that has largely been addressed thanks to our domestic oil and natural gas renaissance – many of its congressional champions continue to tout its supposed environmental benefits, including its positive impact on reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with climate change.

A recent study published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, however, questions the degree to which our biofuels mandate actually reduces carbon emissions. Their research found that the expansion of cropland that occurred from 2008-2012 resulted in the release of significant carbon deposits from the soil, and that these emissions were largely driven by the conversion of grasslands into land for crop production. This spike in land conversion coincided with enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which greatly expanded our biofuels mandate. The release of extra carbon is notable, as the greenhouse gas is a contributor to climate change. What’s more, due to its lower energy content, gasoline blended with ethanol get fewer miles per gallon than regular gas, meaning cars require more of it to travel the same distance, further hurting the claim that the RFS is environmentally friendly. 

Further analysis into biofuels from university researchers is not only welcomed, but needed, as EPA has not fulfilled its statutory obligation to inform Congress on the environmental and conservation impacts of the RFS and hasn’t completed a triannual congressional impact report since 2011.

In addition, your agency never completed an anti-backsliding study to determine if our ethanol mandate negatively impacts air quality.

As we approach 2022, when the statutory volume requirement for biofuels ends, it’s critical that policymakers have a complete picture of how the RFS affects not only our economy, but also our environment. With this in mind, please answer the following questions by January 31, 2018:

I. Does the RFS increase the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere?

II. Is EPA concerned by the amount of grasslands and forestlands that have been converted into cropland in recent years?

III. Does EPA take into account the effects our biofuels mandate has on land and air quality – including carbon emissions – when determining annual renewable fuel volume obligations (RVOs)?

  • If yes, how do the results impact your decision making?

IV. Do I have your assurance that EPA will, as required, complete and send Congress an updated triannual congressional impact study on the RFS?

  • If yes, when can it be expected?
  • If no, why can’t it be completed?

V. Do you think it would beneficial for EPA to complete an anti-backsliding air quality study before announcing future RVOs?

  • If no, why not?

VI. Do I have your assurance that EPA will, as required, send Congress an anti-backsliding air study on the RFS?

  • If yes, when can it be expected?
  • If no, why can’t it be completed?

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.

Member of Congress

By: Jim Sensenbrenner

We have a long-standing tradition of embracing outdoor recreation in Wisconsin. Our four seasons provide picturesque opportunities for hiking, boating, ice fishing and hunting. In fact, hunting is a hobby embraced by families across our great state that bonds together people from all walks of life.
 
The joy of hunting is just one of the many ways law-abiding Wisconsinites exercise their constitutionally protected right to bear arms — a right I have long defended.
 
In light of the many tragic shootings in our nation, much has been debated about firearm availability and safety. We can all agree that it’s essential to deny the sale of firearms to convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens, those convicted of domestic violence and anyone deemed by a judge to be mentally ill. I have consistently supported this principle throughout my career in Congress, including in 1993, when I worked with members on both sides of the aisle to pass the Brady Handgun Prevention Act. 
 
The law bears the namesake of my friend, Jim Brady, press secretary to President Ronald Reagan. Brady was critically injured during an assassination attempt on President Reagan by John Hinckley Jr. — a man whose record included both recent arrests and mental illness.
 
As members drafted the “Brady Bill,” I insisted on the inclusion of a timely background check system to prevent similar tragedies. This effort led to the 1998 launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under the control of the FBI, now commonly known as NICS.
 
Under the system, firearm dealers cross-reference the information of prospective buyers with NICS data, to ensure that the purchaser is not on the list of convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens, or those convicted of domestic violence.
 
But as I have stated many times, NICS is only as strong as the information entered into it. If federal agencies or other law enforcement bodies fail to provide NICS with the necessary information, dangerous individuals will slip through the cracks and purchase firearms.
 
To combat this, I recently supported passage of bipartisan legislation that protects the rights of all Wisconsinites and strengthens the enforcement of laws already on the books. The bill passed the House by a 231-198 vote.
 
The legislation puts measures in place to compel federal agencies to comply with existing NICS statutes. The bill also provides additional funding to assist state and local governments in providing all relevant information to NICS. Ensuring that the existing system functions properly will help us avoid future tragedies, like those in recent events.
 
On a Sunday morning this past October, a disturbed individual burst into a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting and killing 26 churchgoers and injuring 20 others. The shooter, who received a bad conduct discharge from the military and had a documented history of domestic abuse, unfortunately, had no trouble purchasing his weapons. Had the Department of Defense properly reported his history to the FBI, he would have been flagged in NICS, and the dealer would have been legally obligated to deny the sale. Furthermore, local enforcement would have been notified about the attempted purchase.
 
I don’t live under the illusion that bad people will stop doing evil things but I know that there are meaningful actions that we as a society can take to make it much more difficult for evil-doers to do harm.
 
I’m encouraged to see both Republicans and Democrats in the House come together to take action on these issues, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to move quickly to pass this legislation. I remain committed to the oath that I took to uphold the Constitution and will continue to seek bipartisan solutions to keep our nation safe.

Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, represents Wisconsin's 5th District and is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

You can read this piece online here.

Augusta Free Press

Overwhelming bipartisan majorities support proposed legislation that calls for extending the period that former government officials must wait before they can lobby the government and prohibiting former executive branch officials from ever lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.

Similarly large majorities favor ending the support the government currently provides for former U.S. presidents.

The survey of 2,482 registered voter was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, and released Tuesday by the non-partisan organization, Voice of the People. To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the proposal and asked to evaluate arguments for and against.

The content was reviewed by congressional proponents and opponents of the legislation to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced and that the arguments presented were the strongest ones being made.

Currently, former Members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying Congress for two years after leaving office. Proposed legislation H.R. 383 by Rep. Posey [R-FL-8], H.R. 796 by Rep. DeSantis [R-FL-6], H.R. 1951 by Rep. O’Halleran [D-AZ-1] and H.R. 346 by Rep. Trott [R-MI-11] calls for extending this period to five years.  In the survey, 77 percent approved of such an extension, including 80% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Extending the waiting period for senior congressional staffers from the current one year to two years—as called for in H.R. 383 by Rep. Posey [R-FL-8]—was approved by 77%, including 79% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats.

Currently, senior executive branch officials are prohibited from lobbying their former agency for 1-2 years depending on how senior they were. H.R. 1934 proposed by Rep. Gallagher [R-WI-8], S.522 by Sen. Tester [D-MT], H.R. 796 by Rep. De Santis [R-FL-6] and H.R. 484 by Rep. De Fazio [D-OR-4] call for extending this period to five years for all such officials.  This proposal was supported by 75%, including 77% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats.

“The American public seems to be eager to drain the swamp in Washington,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

However, support did not go so far as to call for a lifetime ban on former members of Congress lobbying as called for by S.1189 by Sen. Bennet [D-CO] and H.R 4187 by Rep. Hollingsworth [R-IN-9]. Only 29% of respondents supported it, including 33% of Republicans and 24% of Democrats.

Currently, Americans can act as lobbyists for foreign governments, provided they register and report their activities to the U.S. government.  Senior executive branch officials are only limited by the 1-2 year restriction for lobbying their former agency.  Proposed bills H.R. 796 by Rep.DeSantis [R-FL-6] and H.R. 484 by Rep. De Fazio [D-OR-4] prohibit former senior executive branch officials from any lobbying on behalf of a foreign government for the rest of their life.

This proposal was favored by 75%, including 81% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats.

The Trump administration has required political appointees in its administration to pledge to not lobby their former agency for five years and to never lobby the US government for a foreign government after they leave office.

The sample is large enough to enable analysis of attitudes in very Republican and very Democratic districts (based on Cook PVI ratings of the district the respondents live in).  In all cases, red districts were just slightly more supportive of the proposed restrictions.

Another set of questions presented a proposal to end the financial support for former U.S. presidents, as called for in H.R. 2298 sponsored by Rep. Sensenbrenner [R-WI-5].  Currently, former U.S. presidents get financial support to cover the ongoing costs associated with the activities of being a former president, including office space, staffing and travel.  In 2017, the government will spend approximately $4 million in support for the four former U.S. presidents.

Seventy-two percent favored the proposal, including 85% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats.  In very red districts 77% favored the proposal and in very blue districts 61% favored it.

The survey was conducted online from September 7- October 3, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 2,482 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 2.0%.

Washington, D.C.—During today’s House Judiciary Committee mark up, Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered his support for H.R.1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. Sensenbrenner is a cosponsor of the bill.

 

His remarks as reflected in the record can be found here:

“The Internet has been one of the greatest innovations in history. It has brought tremendous economic and social benefits to humankind. We can now accomplish nearly any transactions with just a few clicks of a mouse from the comfort of our own homes. It is undeniable, that, for all of us, it has made life easier.

Unfortunately, the Internet has also made life easier for criminals, who can use the anonymity of the Web to mask their illicit activities and avoid detection by law enforcement. This is especially true in the realm of sex trafficking – one of the most horrific, insidious crimes you could imagine. Thanks to a group of committed, passionate professionals and brave victims, the problem of sex trafficking on the Internet is now receiving the attention it merits.

We are all now well aware of the reprehensible and blatantly criminal conduct of the executives at Backpage.com. Because young victims have come forward to share their stories, we are aware of the harm caused by these types of websites, which are not only a venue for sex traffickers to sell young women, but also materially contribute to this illicit conduct.

Backpage.com’s conduct also shed light on websites that are using the Communications Decency Act to shield themselves from liability for their illegal activities, which is something Congress never intended.

For these reasons, I am pleased to be an cosponsor of H.R. 1865, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, also known as FOSTA.  As amended, this legislation will provide law enforcement additional tools to combat websites like Backpage. The bill creates a new federal statute criminalizing the use or operation of an interstate facility with the intent to promote or facilitate prostitution or sex trafficking. 

The bill specifically amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make sure that state and local prosecutors can enforce any state law if the conduct underlying the charge constitutes a violation of the new crime. In addition, the bill amends Section 230 to make clear that state and local prosecutors can enforce state sex trafficking laws insofar as those charges would also constitute a violation of federal sex trafficking law.  Finally, FOSTA will provide new mechanisms for financially compensating victims.  Receiving compensation can serve as an acknowledgement of victimhood and help victims on their road to recovery.

I commend Ms. Wagner and Committee staff for their thoughtful approach to this issue.  This legislation is the culmination of months of hard work and shows that we can take measures to prevent online sex trafficking without undermining the foundations of internet freedom.  I urge my colleagues to support it.”

 

###

By: Peter Roper of The Pueblo Chieftain

Disabled activists were outside U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton's office Monday -- not to picket but to thank the 3rd District Republican for co-sponsoring legislation that would help guarantee their access to home-care services.

Tipton is one of 70 Republican and Democratic House members who are supporting the Disability Integration Act that is being offered by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Kristen Castor, a Pueblo advocate for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, said disabled activists spent a long summer pushing back against Republican efforts to distribute federal Medicaid funding to the states through block grants.

They feared a block-grant approach could lead to states requiring the disabled to be in nursing homes to get any benefits.

"The Disability Integration Act says that home-care services are also mandated by the Medicaid program," Castor said. "This is as close as we've ever come to getting home care on an equal footing with nursing home care. That's why we want to thank Mr. Tipton for supporting us."

Disabled people use more than 25 percent of all Medicaid funding and the federal program initial required the disabled to be in nursing homes to receive the money. Activists fought that policy in the courts in the 1980s and won the right to have Medicaid pay for home care as well.

Those services can include everything from motorized wheelchairs to oxygen and other essentials.

The Sensenbrenner bill would require that Medicaid give equal weight to home-care services as institutional care.

Tipton joins Colorado Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis in co-sponsoring the legislation.

by: Shari Dingle Costantini of the Daily Younder

Three Ways the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act Will Impact Patients in Rural Communities

Nurses are few and far between in rural communities. The Journal of Nursing Regulation reported that by 2020 over 70,000 nurses will be retiring. This decline in staff could affect healthcare facilities in rural areas first, since they already struggle with longer patient wait times, longer shift hours for their nurses and are more at risk for closure than healthcare facilities in metropolitan areas.

In response to the nurse shortage, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) introduced H.R.3351 Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act 2017, which allocates up to 8,000 immigrant visas annually for nurses and physicians who are in critical need and in short supply.

Since 2010, 82 U.S. rural health facilities have shut down due to declining Medicaid reimbursements, cuts in funding, and the high cost to upgrade facilities. The healthcare professional shortage also plays a factor in rural hospital closures. Recruiting international nurses and physicians for rural hospitals can help facilities and reduce the risk of closures by keeping beds staffed. The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act aims to improve patient care in three crucial areas: access to care, quality of care and patient engagement.

Improving patient access to health care

In rural North Carolina, a 48-year-old woman died from cardiac arrest after waiting 90 minutes for a medical helicopter to arrive, according to the Associated Press. Healthcare professionals assessed that the patient could have been revived if the local hospital had not closed (only six days earlier). Since this incident in 2015, more than 673 rural hospitals are at risk of closing,, according to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). Hospital closures as a result of inadequate staffing are a life-threatening reality that 11.7 million Americans could face.

International healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurses, could be recruited and placed in rural hospitals to help prevent closure.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an additional 4,000 nurses are needed to meet current rural health needs. The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act can help supply nurses to meet these demands.

Reducing medical errors

According to Patient safety and quality: an evidence-based handbook for nurses, nurse fatigue and stress are the main causes of medication errors. Due to the shortage, nurses often need to work longer hours under very stressful conditions, which can result in fatigue that may increase medical errors.

Increasing nurse staffing levels is one major way to reduce nurse fatigue and prevent medical errors. This bill ensures that international healthcare professionals are available to assist in facilities with the strongest needs.

Improving patient engagement

Research shows that patients who acquire regular primary care comply with their prescribed treatments and have lower rates of illness and premature death. This is because an effective primary care system has a full staff to provide a team approach to patient care, according to the report Health Status and Health Care Access of Farm and Rural Populations.

Proper staffing levels allow nurses the time needed to properly care for and discharge patients.

The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act aims to protect rural hospitals from closure and helps them provide quality care for their patients. Access to a supply of international healthcare professionals is a must in this nurse shortage.

Shari Dingle Costantini is the CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals, a Florida-based professional staffing agency for registered nurses. 

 

by Jonathan Miller of CQ

In the early months of 2017, a good deal of attention was paid to members of Congress who seemed to be skipping out on town halls for fear of mobs of angry constituents.

Story Photo

 

Around that time, the Town Hall Project was born. It evolved from a Google spreadsheet to a searchable online database that allows anyone to find a town hall near them. Some paid staffers and up to 120 volunteers keep it up to date.

Now, the founders of the effort are awarding two members of Congress with an MVP for constituent interface: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. Both well outpaced their colleagues in meeting with the people. Wyden held 80 town halls, Sensenbrenner a whopping 115. Nathan Williams, the co-founder of the Town Hall Project, notes that Wyden makes a point to schedule town halls off his natural turf. “He holds them in all counties in the state, even in ones that aren’t especially Democratic,” he says. Wyden was presented his award at a town hall on Dec. 2.

As for Sensenbrenner, Williams says he is trying to arrange a time to present the award but hasn’t heard back from staff yet. “There’s a lot going on in Congress right now, so we’re not taking it personally that he hasn’t gotten back to us,” he says. The Top 5 town hallers for both the Senate and House can be found in the chart.