Big Companies Cash in on the #GOPTaxScam – Announce More Than $120 Billion in Share Buybacks in 2018

Less than fifty days into 2018, it’s increasingly obvious that the GOP Tax Scam overwhelmingly benefits corporate executives and wealthy shareholders while the middle class gets left behind.
Last week, Senate Democrats released a special report on the real impact of the GOP Tax Scam. As one economics professor said, “The only benefit of share buybacks is to people who are in the business of selling shares: executives.” Since then, corporations have announced tens of billions in additional corporate share buybacks – more than $120 billion in total. 

CNN Money: Only 13% Of Business' Tax Cuts Are Going To Workers, Survey Says. “Businesses are going to spend their big tax cut savings on investors, new equipment, getting out of debt and buying other companies. Oh, and workers. Employees will get a tiny piece, too. A very tiny piece. Only 13% of companies' tax cut savings will go to pay raises, bonuses and employee benefits, according to a survey of Morgan Stanley analysts released Thursday. 43% will go to investors in the form of stock buybacks and dividends, the analysts predict.” [CNN Money, 2/9/18]

Financial Times: Wells Fargo Plans To Close 900 Branches Despite $3.4bn Tax Boost. “Wells Fargo plans to close about 900 branches as part of efforts to cut costs in the wake of its mis-selling scandal even though the bank’s profits received an immediate $3.4bn boost from the US corporate tax cut.” [Financial Times, 1/12/18]

MarketWatch: Wal-Mart Has Announced Thousands Of Layoffs Since Publicizing Bonuses And Benefits Expansion. “Since Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would hand out bonuses and expand benefits to more than 1 million associates thanks to new tax reform measures, the retail giant has also laid out plans for store closures and thousands of layoffs at both the store and corporate level. Wal-Mart confirmed about 1,000 layoffs in California on Monday, including 650 associates in Sam’s Club locations in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Orange County, and 359 at a Wal-Mart location in Sacramento.” [MarketWatch, 2/1/18]
USA Today: Kleenex, Huggies Maker To Cut Up To 5,500 Jobs, Close 10 Plants. “Kimberly-Clark, which also produces Huggies diapers, Kotex feminine hygiene products, Cottonelle toilet paper and Scott paper towels, plans to cut up to 5,500 jobs and close or sell about 10 plants. The Dallas-based company blamed sluggish sales and a bloated production base.” … “Savings from the recent federal tax cut would help fund the cost reductions. It ‘provides us the flexibility’ to do so, Chief Financial Officer Maria Henry said on a conference call.” [USA Today, 1/23/18]
CNBC: As Retailers Herald Tax Savings, They're Still Closing Stores And Laying Off Workers. “Several retailers have touted bonuses, employee raises and improved benefits as evidence that the new tax legislation is creating opportunities for the industry's workers. But even as these proclamations are being made, retailers are still closing stores and laying off staff.” [CNBC, 2/2/18]

Wells Fargo Share Buyback 102x As Large As Pledge to Workers. In January 2018, Wells Fargo announced a new 350 million share buyback - approximately $22 billion based on that day’s closing share price. In December, Wells Fargo announced a commitment to its workers that may have been previously planned, according to statements from a company spokesman. President Trump touted Wells Fargo at the signing of the tax bill, H.R. 1., as evidence that the tax bill was working. According to the investment bank KBW, Wells Fargo’s announcement would cost $215 million, 102 times less than the announced share buyback. [Press Release, 1/23/18; LA Times, 12/21/17; Remarks by President Trump at Signing of H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill Act, and H.R. 1370, 12/22/17; CNN, 1/3/18]
Anthem Share Buyback 86x As Large As Pledge to Workers: In December 2017, Anthem announced a new $5 billion corporate share buyback. In January 2018, Anthem announced it will increase the dividend it pays its shareholders. In February 2018, Anthem announced it would contribute $58 million for retirement account contributions. The CFO of Anthem told shareholders that approximately 50% of the benefits of tax reform would end up in shareholders’ pockets. [SEC Form 8-K, Date of Report 12/7/17; Press Release, 1/31/18; Press Release, 2/5/18; Q4 2017 Results – Earnings Call via Seeking Alpha, 1/31/18]
Altria Share Buyback 42x As Large as Pledge to Workers. In February 2018, Altria announced a new $1 billion corporate share buyback. The company also announced a $24 million bonus program, 42 times less than the share buyback. [Press Release, 2/1/18; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/1/18]

In Wake of Republicans’ Massive Corporate Tax Giveaway, Corporations Have Laid Off Thousands of American Workers, Lined Corporate Executives’ Pockets with More than $50 Billion in Announced Share Buybacks in First Days of 2018

In the wake of Republicans’ massive corporate tax giveaways, big banks, oil and tobacco companies, and other corporations have announced more than $50 billion on stock buybacks in the first days of 2018. These buybacks flow directly to the pockets of corporate executives – not American workers. Since the Senate Republican tax bill passed in December, corporations have authorized $136 billion on corporate share buybacks. Big Corporations have pocketed their windfalls and laid off American workers. As one economics professor told the Financial Times this week, “The only benefit of share buybacks is to people who are in the business of selling shares: executives.”


Financial Times: Wells Fargo Plans To Close 900 Branches Despite $3.4bn Tax Boost.Wells Fargo plans to close about 900 branches as part of efforts to cut costs in the wake of its mis-selling scandal even though the bank’s profits received an immediate $3.4bn boost from the US corporate tax cut. Executives at the San Francisco-based group, which operates about 5,860 branches across the country, said on Friday they would make the closures to the retail network by the end of 2020 — including at least 250 this year. The disclosure came even though Wells is set to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts among the country’s largest banks and last month said it would boost the staff minimum wage and hand 250,000 employees restricted stock awards.” [Financial Times, 1/12/18]

MarketWatch: Wal-Mart Has Announced Thousands Of Layoffs Since Publicizing Bonuses And Benefits Expansion. “Since Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would hand out bonuses and expand benefits to more than 1 million associates thanks to new tax reform measures, the retail giant has also laid out plans for store closures and thousands of layoffs at both the store and corporate level. Wal-Mart confirmed about 1,000 layoffs in California on Monday, including 650 associates in Sam’s Club locations in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Orange County, and 359 at a Wal-Mart location in Sacramento.” [MarketWatch, Updated 2/1/18]

USA Today: Kleenex, Huggies Maker To Cut Up To 5,500 Jobs, Close 10 Plants. “Kimberly-Clark, which also produces Huggies diapers, Kotex feminine hygiene products, Cottonelle toilet paper and Scott paper towels, plans to cut up to 5,500 jobs and close or sell about 10 plants. The Dallas-based company blamed sluggish sales and a bloated production base.” … “Savings from the recent federal tax cut would help fund the cost reductions. It ‘provides us the flexibility’ to do so, Chief Financial Officer Maria Henry said on a conference call.” [USA Today, 1/23/18]

Indianapolis Star: AT&T, Touting Bonuses And Investment Fueled By Tax Reform, Quietly Lays Off Thousands. “When AT&T Inc. announced it would hand out holiday bonuses to 200,000 workers thanks to Congress' recent tax overhaul, the company's statement failed to mention a separate, yet notable, personnel matter: Many employees will be getting laid off in the coming weeks. AT&T is eliminating thousands of jobs across the U.S., including 30 in Central Indiana, according to Communications Workers of America, the union that represents AT&T employees.” [Indianapolis Star, 1/2/18]

Newsweek: Comcast Fired Hundreds Of Workers Before Christmas Alongside Pledge To Give $1,000 'Trump Tax Cut' Bonuses. “Just two weeks before Christmas, hundreds of Comcast door-to-door salespeople were called into company offices and fired from their jobs, it has emerged, just after the telecommunications giant announced it would be giving out $1,000 bonuses to staffers thanks to a major tax cut.” [Newsweek, 1/5/18]

The American People Still Overwhelmingly Oppose the #GOPTaxScam – Here’s Why.


Gallup:   Americans Remain Negative on Tax Bill After Its Passage. “A majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the nation's new tax reform law after its late December passage, just as they did a month ago when it was still being debated. Gallup assessed attitudes toward the tax bill in early December and found disapproval outweighing approval by almost 2 to 1: 56% vs. 29%. A month later, after Congress passed the bill and President Donald Trump signed it into law on Dec. 22, a new Gallup survey finds little substantive change. Approval has edged up four percentage points to 33% as the percentage with no opinion dropped by a similar amount, but these changes are not statistically significant.” [Gallup, 1/10/18]

Quinnipiac Poll: “The Wealthy Will Benefit Most From This Plan, 66 Percent Of American Voters Say.” “Voters disapprove 52 - 32 percent of the recently enacted Republican tax plan. … The wealthy will benefit most from this plan, 66 percent of American voters say, while 22 percent say the middle class will benefit most and 4 percent say low income people will benefit most.” [Quinnipiac, 1/11/18]


Business Insider: Walmart Is Abruptly Closing 63 Sam's Club Stores And Laying Off Thousands Of Workers. “Walmart is closing 63 Sam's Club stores across the US, the company told Business Insider. Several stores were abruptly closed Thursday. In some cases, employees were not informed of the closures prior to showing up to work on Thursday. Instead, they learned that their store would be closing when they found the store's doors locked and a notice announcing the closure, according to reports.” [Business Insider, 1/11/18]

Indianapolis Star: AT&T, Touting Bonuses And Investment Fueled By Tax Reform, Quietly Lays Off Thousands. “When AT&T Inc. announced it would hand out holiday bonuses to 200,000 workers thanks to Congress' recent tax overhaul, the company's statement failed to mention a separate, yet notable, personnel matter: Many employees will be getting laid off in the coming weeks. AT&T is eliminating thousands of jobs across the U.S., including 30 in Central Indiana, according to Communications Workers of America, the union that represents AT&T employees. The company is cutting nearly 12 percent of its technicians who install U-verse and DirectTV in the Indianapolis area, according to union figures.” [Indianapolis Star, 1/2/18]

Arstechnica: Comcast Fired 500 Despite Claiming Tax Cut Would Create Thousands Of Jobs. “Comcast reportedly fired about 500 salespeople shortly before Christmas, despite claiming that the company would create thousands of new jobs in exchange for a big tax cut. Comcast apparently tried to keep the firings secret while it lobbied for the tax cut that was eventually passed into law by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Trump in late December. The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the Comcast firings this week in an article based on information from an anonymous former employee, Comcast documents, and other sources in the company.” [ArsTechnica, 1/4/18]

LA Times (Hiltzik): Pfizer, Pocketing A Big Tax Cut From Trump, Will End Investment In Alzheimer's And Parkinson's Research. “With every passing day, it becomes clearer who’s reaping the benefit of the huge tax cut handed over to American corporations by the Republican-dominated Congress in December. Spoiler alert: Not workers or customers, but shareholders, especially the rich ones. (Don’t be fooled by those $1,000 bonuses handed out by a few big companies anxious to curry favor with the Trump White House — if they were serious about improving their employees’ lot they’d distribute the money in the form of permanent raises, not a bonus that you can safely bet will be a distant memory by this time next year.) The big drug company Pfizer seems intent on being a pace-setter in cranking out the benefits of the tax cut to stakeholders who need them the least. In an announcement over the weekend, Pfizer said it was shutting down its research efforts on treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism. The company didn’t say how much it was spending on the two conditions, but said about 300 researchers will lose their jobs as it redirects its research and development budget elsewhere.” [LA Times, 1/8/18]

Senate Democrats Fight for Middle Class Priorities in Long-Term Funding Bill

As Congress debates a long-term funding bill, Senate Democrats are laser focused on not only increasing investment in our military, but also in the domestic programs and efforts important to middle class families: funding the fight against the opioid crisis, protecting the pensions American workers have earned, and investing in facilities and care for our nation’s veterans. Senate Democrats also continue to push for long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) because families in need of quality, affordable, and accessible health care deserve certainty.

Fighting the Opioid Crisis

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D–NH) & Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

The Hill: Senate Dems seek $25B in opioid funding. “Senate Democrats are pushing for an extra $25 billion to be included in any final budget agreement to combat the opioid epidemic. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, a pair of New Hampshire Democrats who are leading the effort, said during a press conference Tuesday that the federal response to the crisis has been insufficient and negotiations over a long-term spending deal are an opportunity to change that.” [The Hill, 1/9/18]

Washington Examiner: New Hampshire Democrats ask for $25 billion to tackle opioid epidemic. “New Hampshire's Democratic senators want $25 billion to be spent over two years to stave off tens of thousands of overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers. The pair, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, say they would like to see the funding included in a spending deal being worked out between Congress and the White House. Shaheen told reporters that they are working to bring along support from other Democrats but had not talked to the White House about their proposal. She noted that negotiations on the bill had been occurring behind the scenes. The $25 billion is one of the first formal proposals to be released.” [Washington Examiner, 1/9/18]

NHPR: A Conversation With U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen. “We'll be discussing such issues as the federal response to the opioid crisis; escalating nuclear tensions with North Korea; and a looming showdown over immigration issues and a long-term government spending bill.” [NHPR (Radio Interview), 1/7/18]

WMUR-TV (Video) - Shaheen, Hassan call for more opioid money in funding bill. "New Hampshire's U.S. Senators are calling for more resources to help fight the opioid crisis." [WMUR, 12/14/17] 

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

WMUR (Video): CloseUP: Hassan to Push for More Funding to Fight Opioid Crisis. [WMUR, 1/8/18]

New Hampshire Union Leader: Hassan cites Derry opioid victim in weekly address. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., highlighted the tragic opioid overdose death of a young Derry man in a national weekly radio address she used to lobby for congressional support to spend more to battle this crisis. ‘Greg Drugan was a young man from Derry, N.H., with dreams of becoming a doctor. He had a family who loved him. But Greg also struggled with a substance use disorder. He was showing signs of depression, and after graduating from college, he was prescribed an opioid-based painkiller following an outpatient surgery. After he was prescribed that opioid, he went from bad to worse,’ Hassan said in the speech she produced Friday.” [New Hampshire Union Leader, 1/5/18]

WMUR: Hassan calls for more spending on opioid crisis in Democratic address. “U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan called for more money to fight the opioid epidemic in this week's Weekly Democratic Address. Hassan delivered the Democratic address for the first time since she was elected to the U.S. Senate. She highlighted the story of Derry, New Hampshire, resident Greg Drugan, who died in 2016 from an opioid overdose.” [WMUR, 1/5/18]

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)

Washington Post - The Health 202: Industry is tackling opioid abuse as Washington drags its feet: “But Senate Democrats poured on the pressure yesterday, chiding their Republican colleagues for calling to raise caps on defense spending yet being unwilling to provide more dollars for health-care providers and law enforcement to take on opioids. ‘Those very same Republican House members that are saying they want more money to fight terrorism overseas — those Republicans have a responsibility to help us fight that terror,’ said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), noting that there are around 33,000 deaths in the United States every year involving opioids.” [Washington Post, 12/15/17]

Washington Times - Democrats say Trump must back up opioids talk with money: “Senate Democrats pressured Republicans Thursday to approve billions of dollars to fight the opioid epidemic this year, saying President Trump’s lofty rhetoric on addiction will ring hollow if his party doesn’t back it up with real money. Mr. Trump declared the prescription drug and heroin crisis to be a public health emergency in October, saying the time had come to end the scourge, yet he left it to Congress to free up resources for the fight. Two months later, though, Congress hasn’t found any more cash. “A vision, without funding, is a hallucination,” Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, said. ‘And so far, President Trump has not put up one additional nickel to deal with this issue beyond what had already been passed by Congress at the end of last year.’” [Washington Times, 12/14/17]

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

The Journal News (NY): Charles Schumer takes on heroin, opioid epidemic, urges Congress to boost funding. Speaking in White Plains, Schumer cited mounting drug deaths in Westchester and Rockland counties and across the country to show the heroin crisis is worsening. Opioid-related overdoses killed 143 in Westchester and Rockland in 2016. In all, 42,200 Americans died that year from opioid use, up from 33,000 in 2015. "We all know how bad the opioid crisis is," he said. "Across America it affects everyone: it affects the rich, it affects the middle-class, it affects the poor." [The Journal News, 1/5/18

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Senator Chris Van Hollen

Senator Chris Van Hollen (Photo) Facebook: “For the past year, Rick Werner and his family have traveled to Capitol Hill to sound the alarm about the terrible personal and economic toll the opioid epidemic has had on communities in every part of our country. Their beloved son and brother, Jamie, died tragically from an opioid overdose at the age of 27. For those of you who are from Maryland—Jamie was a graduate of the University of Maryland and eventually went on to become a football lineman coach at Walt Whitman High School. Jamie was beloved by all who knew him. In fact, here’s what the head coach at Walt Whitman said about him: ‘Everybody loved him, I often saw Jamie talking to kids in difficult situations in a way that made everyone feel valued.’ Jamie was smart, funny, and a terrific cook, but at the same time he was struggling with mental illness and addiction. The pain associated with losing a child to substance abuse is one that no parent should ever have to endure. It takes tremendous courage, grit, resolve, and strength to speak out and try to save other families from that tragedy. But it’s also incredibly frustrating for families, like the Werners, to keep fighting without results. Words are comforting, but they aren’t enough. We can continue talking about the opioid epidemic or we can start doing something by devoting resources to make sure people get the treatment they need.

There are lots of discussions in the halls of Congress about the need to support a strong national defense—an issue we can all agree is important. But our nation’s strength also comes from having a robust economy, a good education system, and a healthy population. And we cannot be a country at full strength and force until we address this horrible opioid epidemic. As we invest in a strong military, we must also invest in other areas vital to the success our nation. It’s my sincere hope that Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration will work with us to fund all of our national priorities, including providing the resources needed to prevent further tragedies like the loss of Jamie.” [Facebook, 1/7/18]

Protecting the Pensions American Workers Have Earned 

Plan Sponsor - Democratic Lawmakers Urge Quick Passage of Butch Lewis Act: Congressional Democrats working on labor and retirement issues convened Wednesday morning to call on their Republican majority colleagues to consider immediate stand-alone passage of legislation, known as the Butch Lewis Act, which would, Democrats argued, “ensure the pensions that American union workers have earned over a lifetime of work are protected into the future.” Democratic Senators and Representatives laid out the Butch Lewis Act as a key tenant of their so-called “Better Deal” platform. The legislation is named for Butch Lewis, the former President of Teamster Local 100 and “a leader of the fight to save Teamster pensions.” [Plan Sponsor, 12/13/17]

Washington Examiner - Democrats push to add pension fix to spending bill: “Top Democrats joined with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on Wednesday to demand that the government spending bill include rescues for struggling pension plans such as the Teamsters' Central States plan. "At the same time that we are doing a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich we ought to be able to find a few billions for workers' pensions," Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said at a rally Wednesday on Capitol Hill hosted by the Teamsters. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were among those who attended the event.” [Washington Examiner, 12/13/17]

Talk Media News - Blue-collar workers cheer Senate Democrats’ pension plan: House and Senate Democrats were cheered by more than 70 union members on Wednesday after unveiling a bill to keep worker pensions funded. ‘One of the main things we Democrats have been pushing for and will continue to push for in the bipartisan budget negotiations is to help these workers out,’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference. ‘Democrats are fighting for a pension solution and we want it in the year-end omnibus bill, now’ he said in front of the cheering crowd of miners, laborers and Teamsters.” [Talk Media News, 12/13/17]

Senator Sherrod Brown (D–OH)

McClatchy: “Democrats are pressing Republicans to include in this month’s spending bill the Butch Lewis Act, named for the late teamster who led a fight to save his union’s pensions. Sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the measure would direct the Treasury Department to loan money to faltering pension plans at low interest rates.” [McClatchy, 1/3/18]

Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader Editorial: Will Congress break pension promise to coal miners, millions of other Americans?: Two years ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed a stabilization plan for coal miners’ pensions, despite bipartisan support. McConnell has insisted that any fix be part of a broader reform. His spokesman referred questions to the Senate Finance Committee. Happily, a member of that committee, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is proposing a broad reform, one Democrats want in the spending plan that Congress must approve by Jan. 19.  [Herald-Leader, 1/5/18]

Cleveland Plain Dealer: “’These workers are not asking for a handout,’ Brown said Wednesday at press conference with union retirees, labor leaders including Teamsters president James Hoffa, and congressional colleagues including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. ‘They're simply saying to us to live up to the promise that's been made to them.’” [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/14/17]

WKMS Kentucky - Miners’ Pensions A Major Part Of Spending Debate: “Now Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has attracted support of Democratic leadership to make a broader push for pensions for a number of other teetering pension plans. At a Capitol Hill rally Brown said Congress found time to pass major tax cuts for corporations and now it’s time to shore up pensions. “Wall Street squandered your pension money,” he said. ‘Now this body, the House and Senate, have a responsibility to keep the promise to protect the pension that you earned and to do it before it’s too late.’” [WKMS, 12/13/17]

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D–WI)

Senator Tammy Baldwin (Video) Twitter: “@SenatorBaldwin: We need to protect retirement security for thousands of Wisconsinites. We must pass the Butch Lewis Act now, because pension promises must be kept.” [Twitter, 1/8/18]

Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

Senator Joe Donnelly (Photos) Facebook: “Joe met with Teamsters local 135 in Indy to discuss the future of their pensions. Joe recently cosponsored the Butch Lewis Act, which would help retirees receive the pension benefits they were promised and earned.” [Facebook, 1/6/18]

Senator Joe Donnelly

Senator Joe Donnelly (Photos) Twitter: “@SenDonnelly: Joe met with @Teamsters local 135 in Indy to discuss the future of their pensions. Joe recently cosponsored the Butch Lewis Act, which would help retirees receive the pension benefits they were promised and earned.” [Twitter, 1/6/18]

Senator Tina Smith (D-MN)

WDIO (Duluth): Senator Tina Smith Meets With Retirees About Pension Problem. “U.S. Senator Tina Smith hit the ground running in the Northland and an important item on her agenda was meeting with retired Teamsters to find a solution to an impending pension problem. ‘Some of us for 40 years have made weekly contributions into the Central States Pension Fund,’ Sherman Liimatainen, the Director of the Minnesota Duluth Committee to Protect Pensions, said.  ‘they depended on it, we depended on it as our living when we chose to retire after years of service.’” [WDIO, 1/6/18]

Duluth News Tribune: Smith meets with Teamsters: Minnesota’s new senator prepares for fight over pensions. “Sen. Tina Smith met with retired Teamsters on Saturday morning to talk about a proposed solution to the problems facing their pensions. The Teamsters Smith met with are part of Central States Pension Fund, which is on its way to being insolvent as it pays out $3.46 for every one dollar it takes in. There are 21,000 members in Minnesota affected by this, with 3,624 of them in the Eighth District, according to Sherman Liimatainen, vice president of National United Committee to Protect Pensions.” [Duluth News Tribune, 1/6/18]

Investing in Veterans

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Politico Morning eHealth: “Sens. Jon Tester and Brian Schatz, who are ranking members on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, respectively, think the VA needs much more money to implement its new Cerner EHR, the pair said during a call. Schatz said the department needs $15 billion to both implement Cerner and maintain VistA in the interim, and that will require additional funding, he said. The problem is particularly acute for the department given money shortages for its private-sector choice program and staffing shortage, Tester said. He indicated the VA committees will not approve an earlier request from VA Secretary David Shulkin for spending flexibility, which would allow the secretary to reroute money to the EHR implementation.” [Politico Morning eHealth, 12/14/17]

Stars and Stripes - Democrats, vets' advocates call for VA funding in year-end spending bill: “Senate Democrat Jon Tester urged Congress on Wednesday to lift spending caps and fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs in a possible year-end budget deal that could be reached by the end of the week. Tester, along with the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, argued the VA and other agencies should receive the same consideration given the Defense Department.” [Stars and Stripes, 12/13/17]

Army Times - Congress again facing a looming VA care funding crisis: “Tester told reporters on Wednesday that he wants a full-year budget for VA and the Isakson bill passed before the end of the year. ‘If the goal here is just to keep kicking the can down the road, we’re not in favor of that,’ he said. ‘We need to fix VA.’” [Army Times, 12/13/17]

Big Island Now - Legislators Call for Budget That Honors Veterans: “U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are calling on Congress to pass a year-end budget deal that honors veterans. After Congress passed a short-term funding bill set to run out Dec. 22, the Senators are calling for responsible, long-term funding that provides more stability and certainty to veterans who rely on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for healthcare and benefits.” [Big Island Now, 12/13/17]

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

Missoulian: Tester warns of challenges coming in 2018. “Congress got some good work done for military veterans last year, but faces lots of Montana-related issues in the next few months, Sen. Jon Tester told the Missoula Kiwanis Club on Tuesday. The two-term Democrat who’s up for re-election in November noted he had nine bills signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017, including one to expand the Missoula Veterans Affairs Clinic.” [Missoulian, 1/2/18]

KPAX (Missoula): Sen. Tester reviews 2017, shares goals for 2018. “Sen. Tester believes the political atmosphere in Washington D.C. is the reason for a spike in public comments to his office. He will be kicking his year off by working on a Veterans Affairs bill, regulatory relief for community banks and a Blackfoot-Clearwater bill which deals with outdoor recreation. Sen. Tester hinted towards an infrastructure bill in 2018, which the White House is preparing to unveil.” [KPAX, 1/2/18]

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

WKZO Michigan - Growing outcry about CHIP bill funding: “Debbie Stabenow held a news conference with several other elected officials and their children to urge the Senate Leadership to put the Child Health Insurance Program on the schedule for a vote as soon as possible. It’s called the CHIP program and it’s a measure getting wide spread support, wider than most congressional bills. Jimmy Kimmel put it into a late night monologue, while holding his ailing son earlier this week, saying it’s wrong that republican leaders are passing big tax breaks for the rich while ignoring healthcare for poor children.” [WKZO, 12/14/17]

Washington Examiner - House spending bill includes children's health insurance funding: “Democrats have clamored for Republicans to pass a CHIP funding bill. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said during a press conference Wednesday that she is part of the Democratic contingent in talks with Republicans over a new spending bill and she is discussing adding long-term CHIP funding.” [Washington Examiner, 12/13/17]

Senator Debbie Stabenow (Video) Facebook: “It’s been 100 days since Republicans in Congress let funding expire for children’s health insurance and community health centers. That’s unacceptable! Tune in as I discuss this on the Senate Floor.” [Facebook, 1/8/18]

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

CBS Philly - Senator Casey Pushes To Have Funding For CHIP Restored: Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey is urging Congress to refund the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Connie Cavara relies on CHIP for her children. “As a nurse, I spend every day taking care of other people’s family members,” she said. “Without CHIP, I would not be able to take care of my own.” Cavara’s kids are among the nine million in the U.S. served by CHIP. She joined a group of Senators, including Bob Casey Wednesday in a push to renew the program. “These children deserve to have the peace of mind and their families deserve to have the peace of mind to know that they’re going to have health insurance coverage.” [CBS Philly, 12/13/17]

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

The News-Times: Blumenthal hears worries about coming end of child health program. “Some 17,000 Connecticut children could be without health insurance at the end of next month if Congress doesn’t approve more funding, leaving families struggling to figure out what they’ll do when the money runs out. In the Danbury area alone, about 1,200 children and teenagers are expected to lose coverage when the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, expires on Feb. 28. In Connecticut, the program is called HUSKY B and serves families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. ‘The community is very concerned and they’re very stressed out,’ said Sinthia Andrade, eligibility specialist at the Danbury Community Health Center, where U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Friday to hear about those affected by CHIP.” [The News-Times, 1/5/18]

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

CBS 19 (Video): Senator Kaine stumps for CHIP program. “Virginia Senator Tim Kaine visited UVA'S Children's Hospital to bring attention to the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, program. He took a tour of the children's hospital on Monday talking about the CHIP, which is facing a lack of federal funding if a reauthorization bill isn't passed in a couple of weeks. The insurance program targets children with complex health needs, and if Virginia loses funding, moms like Angela Dolan have no place to turn.” [CBS 19, 1/8/18]

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia receives brief relief for children's health insurance, but end still looms. “Virginia now has enough money to extend health insurance benefits through the end of February for more than 68,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women, but they ultimately would lose coverage unless Congress reauthorizes the program when the federal budget extension expires at the end of next week...Earlier on Monday, Kaine visited the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville, where he met a woman whose four children depend on FAMIS. ‘For months, Senate Republican leadership has refused to hold a vote on a five-year extension of the CHIP program, scaring tens of thousands of Virginia families whose children depend on the program for doctor visits, hospital care, prescriptions, eyeglasses, and immunizations,’ he said in a statement. ‘I met with one of these parents today, Angela, who told me that without CHIP, her kids wouldn’t get the care they need,” Kaine said. “I’m relieved we were able to help get Virginia some short-term funding, but Congress needs to find a long-term solution this month to finally give these families real peace of mind.’” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/8/18]

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

KOIN (Video): Oregon lawmakers urge Congress to reauthorize CHIP. Democrats say [R]epublicans are holding children's healthcare hostage“Local lawmakers are calling on Congress to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program — CHIP — which has been unfunded for almost 100 days now. Since it was created, CHIP has enjoyed bi-partisan support, but local democrats say republicans are holding children’s healthcare hostage, using CHIP as a pawn in budget negotiations. Senator Jeff Merkley was joined by representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici and Governor Kate Brown for a rally Friday urging congress to pass a bill that would reauthorize CHIP.” [KOIN, 1/5/18]

KTVZ: Top Oregon Democrats: Don't hold CHIP funding hostage.  Urge GOP majority pass funding measure. “Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici on Friday called on Congress to stop holding hostage the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and to pass the bipartisan bill that would fund the program…‘The fact that CHIP is being used as a pawn in cynical political machinations makes my blood boil,’ Sen. Merkley said. ‘The majority leadership in Congress is using the health and well-being of tens of thousands of children in Oregon and 9 million children across the country as a bargaining chip to win concessions in budget negotiations. Children’s health care has been a bipartisan priority in the past. It’s a sad example of the extremists’ hold over one of our political parties that moms and dads need to take time away from their jobs and kids to remind this Congress that health care for children matters.’” [KTVZ, 1/5/18]

The Oregonian: Oregon officials tell Congress: Fund kids' health program. “Gov. Kate Brown and three of Oregon's members of Congress led a rally Friday that called on Republican leaders to re-up funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program…Brown was echoed by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, who also attended Friday's rally in Portland. Several dozen rally-goers underscored their remarks with cheers.” [The Oregonian, 1/5/18]

Community Health Centers 

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D – WI)

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Lack of federal funding could impact local health programs. “Programs that provide free and low-cost health and dental care in Green Bay could be in jeopardy if federal funding is not renewed by the end of March. Funding for programs like the N.E.W. Community Clinic, which operates several clinics in the Green Bay area, and the Children's Health Insurance Program lapsed at the end of September. Funding remains available for the first months of the year, but Congress must act soon to reauthorize funding to continue the programs, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Friday. Baldwin was in Green Bay Friday to talk with the clinic's employees and board members about the need to create long-term funding solutions.” [Green Bay Press-Gazette, 1/5/18]

WBAY (Green Bay): Sen. Baldwin urges more funding for community health centers. “For U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), the top priorities on the 2018 agenda relate to health care, including the Child Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Sen. Baldwin visited downtown Green Bay's NEW Community Clinic, where she talked about her urging Congress to reauthorize funding for community health centers. ‘If there's anything that people from both parties can agree on, it's health care for children, health care in our communities. I am trying my hardest to make sure we come together on a bipartisan basis to restore funding for community health centers and children,’ she said.” [WBAY, 1/5/18

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Record-Journal (CT): Blumenthal visits Meriden to talk about health programs. “Medical professionals from Community Health Center Inc. called on U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to help save funding for children’s health care programs. ‘I am back to talk about federally qualified health centers,’ Blumenthal told the group gathered at the State Street center.  ‘But even more urgently children’s health. All my colleagues say ‘it will get done, don’t worry.’...I’m worried. This fear is compounding as we go along.’” [Record-Journal, 1/5/18]

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Senator Richard Blumenthal (Photo) Facebook: “@SenBlumenthal: This morning I visited a Community Health Center in Meriden to hear from staff about the immense impact of Congress’s abject failure to pass long-term CHIP and CHC funding. I’ll continue to press for full funding reauthorization that puts patients – especially kids – first.” [Facebook, 1/5/18]

Senator Richard Blumenthal (Photo) Twitter: “@SenBlumenthal: Visited #Meriden Community Health Center to hear from @CHCConnecticut staff about the immense impact of Congress’s abject failure to pass long-term #CHIP and CHC funding.” [Twitter, 1/5/18]

Connecticut Health Center (Photo) Twitter: “@CHCConnecticut: Members of our Access to Care team are sharing patient stories, and the dangers of losing coverage, with @SenBlumenthal. High OOP costs often discourage patients from pursuing preventative care.” [Twitter, 1/5/18]

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

UNIVISION: Senadora por Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, urge resolver crisis en los centros de salud del estado Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth Urges to Resolve Crisis in State Health Centers (Video): “La senadora federal denunció que los legisladores republicanos salieron de Washington sin proveer los fondos para las clínicas que atienden a los sectores más necesitados del Illinois. Duckworth advirtió que esos lugares están en riesgo de recortar servicios y empleados. The federal senator charged that Republican lawmakers left Washington without providing funds for clinics that serve the neediest sectors of Illinois. Duckworth warned that those places are at risk of cutting services and employees.” [Univision, 1/8/18]

Senator Tammy Duckworth (Photo) Facebook: “Today, I visited Near North Health Service Corporation to see firsthand the hard work they do each day to make sure Illinoisans receive the health care they need, even as Congressional Republicans put My Near North and over 400 other community health centers in Illinois at risk by refusing to fully fund these facilities. It’s imperative that Congress does its job of serving the American people by reauthorizing funding for these critical health care providers—these hardworking Illinoisans and the patients who rely on the care they provide shouldn't have to wait any longer.” [Facebook, 1/8/18]

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Mass Live: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushes for community health center funding stalled in Congress: “ BOSTON -- After touring a Roxbury community health center, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, called on Congress to provide long-term funding to community health centers and a children's health insurance program. "Right now, Congress has failed in its responsibility to you and the people of Massachusetts and the people of America," Warren said during a roundtable with health care professionals at the Dimock Center.” [Mass Live, 1/8/18]

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Photos) Facebook: “Earlier today, I visited the Dimock Center in Roxbury, which provides comprehensive health care to children and adults from the Boston area and across the state. Last year, Congress blew past multiple deadlines to reauthorize critical funding for both the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and community health centers like the Dimock Center. Federally Qualified Health Centers are the health care home for over 751,000 Massachusetts residents and CHIP provides health care coverage for almost 186,000 children in Massachusetts. We need long term funding for CHIP, which is a real lifeline for families who can’t afford to buy private insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid. And we need to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund, which provides more than 70 percent of all federal funding for health centers. I’m deeply grateful for the work and advocacy of community health center professionals like those I met today at the Dimock Center. They excel at providing affordable, high-quality care — and they deserve our support.” [Facebook, 1/8/18]

Americans Aren’t Fooled by the #GOPTaxScam

Harvard CAPS-Harris:  “64 Percent Of Respondents Oppose The Bill”

Quinnipiac:  “Only 16 Percent Of American Voters Say The Tax Plan Will Reduce Their Taxes" 

Marist:  “Six In Ten Americans… Think The Tax Bill Will Mostly Help The Wealthy”



Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll:  64% Oppose the Republican Tax Bill.  “A strong majority of polled voters oppose the Republican tax bill passed by the Senate earlier this month, a new poll finds. The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris survey found that 64 percent of respondents oppose the bill.” [The Hill, 12/13/17]

Quinnipiac Poll:  55% Disapprove of the Republican Tax Bill.  “American voters disapprove of the pending Republican tax plan 55 - 26 percent, and 43 percent say they are less likely to vote for a U.S. Senator or Congressperson who supports the plan, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.” [Quinnipiac, 12/13/17]

Reuters/Ipsos Poll:  Only 31% Support the Republican Tax Bill.  “In addition to the 49 percent who said they opposed the Republican tax bill, 31 percent said they supported it and 20 percent said they ‘don’t know,’ according to the online opinion poll of 1,499 adults conducted Dec. 3 to 7, with 1,138 adults saying they were aware of the tax legislation.” [Reuters, 12/11/17]


Quinnipiac Poll:  65% Say the Wealthy Will Benefit Most. “The wealthy will benefit most from the tax plan, 65 percent of voters say. The middle class will benefit most, 21 percent say, and 4 percent say low-income people will benefit most.” [Quinnipiac, 12/13/17]

Marist Poll:  60% Think the Republican Tax Bill Will Help the Wealthy the Most.  “Six in ten Americans (60%) also think the tax bill will mostly help the wealthy. More than one in five (21%) say it will aid the middle class, and 4% believe it will mostly assist the poor.” [Marist, 12/12/17]

Reuters/Ipsos Poll:  More Than Half Believe the Wealthy and Large Corporations Will Benefit the Most.  “When asked who stands to benefit most from the Republican plan, more than half of American adults surveyed selected either the wealthy or large U.S. corporations. Twelve percent chose ‘all Americans,’ 8 percent picked the middle class and 2 percent chose lower-income Americans.” [Reuters, 12/11/17]

Marist Poll:  52% Believe the Republican Tax Bill Will Mostly Hurt Their Personal Finances.  “The tax reform bill is highly unpopular among the American people. In fact, a majority of U.S. residents (52%), including more than one in five Republicans (22%) and one in five Trump supporters (20%), think the legislation will mostly hurt their personal family finances.” [Marist, 12/12/17]

Quinnipiac Poll:  Only 16% Believe the Tax Plan Will Reduce Their Taxes.  “Only 16 percent of American voters say the tax plan will reduce their taxes, while 44 percent say it will increase their taxes and 30 percent say the tax plan will have little impact.” [Quinnipiac, 12/13/17]


Marist Poll:  63% Disapprove of Congressional Republicans’ Approach to Taxes.  “63% of U.S. residents, up from 57% in November, say they disapprove of the congressional GOP’s approach. 25%, down from 31% previously, approve, and 12% are unsure.” [Marist, 12/12/17]

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